A recently published article in the NY Times illustrates the potential effects of electronic medical records. The Obama Administration and the medical industry advocate the use of electronic medical records. In fact, the government provided $6.5 billion in incentives, and medical professionals have spent even more.
Instead of spending money on paper, folders, and ink to keep records of patients’ medical history, individuals stress the importance of using electronic forms of recording patient information. This form of record keeping can improve the care that patients receive because the documents are easily accessible to anyone who treats the patient. Arguably, they are more efficient and save a lot of money.
Electronic records, however, also come with many disadvantages. For example, mixing up patient records and information, thereby confusing medical professionals. In response, providers will have to spend even more money to correct the mistakes.
Doctors opposing electronic medical records indicate that it will be time-consuming and burdensome. Some physicians in California expressed that they had to spend many hours learning about the system used for electronic medical records, for instance. As a result, doctors only saw half of their normal patient volume. Doctors complained of “unfamiliar screens and clicks.”
Furthermore, at a county jail, nurses discovered that an order was placed on a medication but the dose was too high. Nurses noticed the mistake before administering the medicine to the patient.
Dr. David J Brailer, the first national coordinator for health information technology, encourages medical professionals to begin the transition from paper charts to electronic charts. Dr. Brailer cautioned last month that the computer tools are difficult to set up and to use. Moreover, they only allow doctors to do a limited amount of things on the computer.
Critics express other concerns, such as fraudulent billing, the fact that computers are susceptible to hacking, and other inherent risks associated with electronic medical records. Data on problems in electronic systems have not been reliable, but the article indicates that medical electronic records “could be linked to at least 60,000 adverse events a year.”