Barack Obama’s call for pervasive computerization and electronic medical records is ambitious and focused, but implementation issues remain challenging.
President Obama’s speech lining up EMR and other health care niceties (in his ambitious stimulus package designed to improve a U.S. economy) is as precarious as any encountered since the Great Depression sounded laudatory and necessary. “If we’re to improve the quality of our health care while lowering its costs, we will have to make the immediate investments necessary to ensure that within five years, all of America’s medical records are computerized. This will cut waste, eliminate red tape, and reduce the need to repeat expensive medical tests. But it just won’t save billions of dollars and thousands of jobs – it will save lives by reducing the deadly, but preventable, medical errors that pervade our health care system.”
In an ideal world, the President would be justly optimistic, but Obama’s goal is hardly a new one. In fact, President George W. Bush, Obama’s unpopular predecessor, set a similar time period in announcing his EMR initiative buttressed on a series of regional programs. The Bush initiative, like many Bush initiatives, failed. But can Universal EMR work?
America’s largest institutions won’t have to start from scratch. Varying implementations of EMR are already in place at Veteran’s Administration’s hospitals across the country. One hurdle at the VA is that electronic documents have been predominately utilized to facilitate business outcomes, rather than patient care. What EMR systems need to do is provide cognitive support to medical practitioners, in the manner that certain EMR systems already do in hundreds of private medical practices nationwide. If a computerized medical records system is too cumbersome and too rigid, it might not be much of an improvement; but, if an EMR system is user-friendly, and is flexible, it would be a huge step in a positive direction. If a Federal EMR standardized system would only follow the lead of certain packages of state-of-the-art EMR software already available in the private sector, President Obama’s ambitious goals are more likely to be realized.
David York is with Fox Meadows, a provider of electronic medical records software, EMR Software, and medical billing software. To learn more about electronic medical records, emr software and medical billing software, visit Foxmeadows.com.