Newspapers Look at Challenges of Establishing Electronic Health Record Systems
Two newspapers on Monday examined issues associated with electronic health records and the use of health care information technology. Summaries appear below.
San Jose Mercury News: While health industry experts and the Bush administration support making EHRs available nationwide to reduce health costs and medical errors, a "lot has to happen first" to make the goal a reality, the Mercury News reports. For instance, care providers and policymakers must agree on the basic elements of a patient record and the technical standards to ensure accessibility and security. In addition, patient privacy must be addressed, as well as the cost of the computers, staff and software necessary to run an EHR system. Further, "technology may have to become far more human-friendly," the Mercury News reports. According to the Mercury News, patients who receive care at large medical groups and hospitals and patients with chronic conditions might be the first to experience EHRs. Molly Coye, founder and CEO of the San Francisco-based think tank HealthTech, said, "Just think 10 years ago, Internet browsers were just starting. If somebody said I'd be paying my bills online 10 years ago, I wouldn't have believed it. Who knows what can happen in 10 years?" (Feder Ostrov, San Jose Mercury News, 3/21).
- Washington Post: The Post on Monday profiled Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, "an industry leader" that is "being held up as a cautionary tale in the drive toward bringing medicine into the computer age." In 2001, the center stopped using a $34 million computer system within three months of its implementation, after physicians, nurses and other staff members complained about an "array of problems," including the time involved to use the system and technical problems. In addition, "only a fraction" of the center's physicians helped develop the system, "even though" all of them "faced a dramatic change in the way they practiced medicine," the Post reports. The center is not in any "rush to try again" soon, according to the Post. National Health Information Technology Coordinator David Brailer said, "The important lesson of the Cedars-Sinai case is that electronic health record implementation is risky. Up to 30% fail." He added, "You are moving from a freewheeling environment -- which is why there are a lot of errors -- to very controlled processes" that generally do not take into account provider's creativity, instinct and judgment (Connolly, Washington Post, 3/21).