EMRs – the New “Land Rush”
The new federal effort to establish a mandatory electronic medical records (EMR) system in providers’ offices and facilities is being likened to the health information industry’s “Oklahoma land rush.” But critics, health care workers, and health information system industry leaders are expressing caution, a Business Week article says.
The effort is part of the new economic stimulus bill enacted in February. Physicians will get up to $44,000 to help implement systems, while hospitals will get millions of dollars. Current EMR vendors are re-tooling to meet expected federal specifications, and giants like General Electric, IBM, Microsoft, Google, and even Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club stores are entering the fray.
So far, critics and industry experts contend, efforts to digitize and coordinate records, coding, billing, and other facets of health care have proved expensive and have fallen short of financial and patient care expectations. Some successes — most notably by the Veteran’s Administration and Kaiser Permanente — fuel optimism, but the failure of many systems to communicate accurately continues to frustrate providers and facilities.
The Holy Grail of a complete system that maintains records, codes, audits, manages healthcare revenue, and safely coordinates tests and prescriptions still appears a long way off for most who are trying to implement the current systems, the article reports.
The article points to examples of incompatible systems that negatively impacted costs and patient care and discusses a Joint Commission for Accreditation of Health Organizations (JCAHO) caution regarding possible patient care problems originating from integrated electronic medical record systems. It also discusses recent papers in medical journals outlining studies indicating these systems cost more than anticipated.
Patient outcomes have prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to consider regulating these systems, while industry leaders hope the government relies on the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT), a non-profit but heavily vendor-dominated group, to be the watchdog for industry standards.
CCHIT is under heavy fire from several fronts that feel the industry organization is a case of the fox ruling the henhouse by driving up EMR costs, failing to develop standards that work, and (in some cases) allowing its principals to profit to the exclusion of others.
Read more about the “land rush” and how the industry, medical societies, government, and health care reform advocates are responding on Business Week’s Web site.