Complicating an already chaotic health care system further uprooted by the implementation of the Affordable Care Act is an act of what some doctors feel is bribery by the government to digitize patient documentation.
After spending over $25 billion to “assist” physicians in updating their electronic health records, nearly three-quarters of doctors surveyed by Medical Economics and the MPI Group have said these new systems are simply not worth it.
In addition to exorbitant costs, poor functionality and inferior design qualities, digitized EHRs are not streamlining practices. Instead, the funds doctors receive through the EHR Meaningful Use Medicare incentive program does not begin to cover the costs associated with integrating the software into their practice. The government did not take into account the expense of training office technicians, purchasing necessary hardware, paying yearly licensing fees and ensuring upgrades are employed to prevent interruptions in the service.
However, what astounded physicians the most was the unanticipated and dramatically higher cost of needing more staff to operate the system exacerbated by the significant decrease in doctor productivity and patient care.
One physician stated that his practice used to take care of around 35 patients a day with the assistance of one medical technician. Now, he says they find it extremely difficult to see more than 23 patients each day–and that is with the help of four technicians. In addition, he knows the care they are providing is worse and unfortunately, much less personal.
According to the senior author of the Medical Economics survey and the RAND Corporation’s Paul O’Neill Alcoa Chair in Policy Analysis Dr. Art Kellerman, the “failure of HIT (health information technology) to effectively deliver on its promise is not caused by its lack of potential, but rather because of the shortcomings in the design of the IT systems that are currently in place”.
The shortcomings referred to by Dr. Kellerman that were included in the comprehensive report concerning the failure of government-touted EHR reform include “time-consuming data entry”, the “inability to efficiently exchange vital patient information among EHR products” and, most importantly, a “dramatic interference with face-to-face patient care”.
Despite industry reliance on EHR, a host of issues continue to persist. An article from USA today discusses how EHR “fails to detect up to 33%” of medical errors. Dr. David Cassen, professor of internal medicine at University of Utah outright claims that these systems are failing to save lives. Instead, issues such as allergic reactions in prescriptions, adverse drug reaction, harmful effects, and excessive doses are not being brought up to doctors’ attention.
Is There a Better Alternative to Digitized Electronic Health Records?
While some physicians have suggested reducing the enormous and inefficient complexity of the current EHR system, professional IT experts have stated that attempting to overhaul the system will result in even more problems and less time spent with patients. Instead of digitizing patient records and medical billing practices, a rapidly growing number of physicians are turning to cloud computing as a way to restore exceptional patient care and affordable functionality to their practice.
Cloud-based management and collaboration systems offer physicians the ability to vastly improve communication with other professionals, eliminate the risk of data breaches associated with digitized EHRs, facilitate medical billing procedures and increase overall office productivity. In addition, using the cloud to store billing records means that information is supported by redundant backup technology which safeguards it from data loss catastrophes common to digitized EHR systems.
As practices and hospitals begin to turn to cloud-computing EHR systems with more frequency, a question of logistics is brought forward. As larger healthcare leaders turn to cloud-based EHR, on-premise healthcare infrastructure must be in place to sustain their network. Companies like FastMed Urgent Care had to employ data centers, storage systems, and software to create a solid foundation for infrastructure.
Because providers today are extremely connected, their systems are constantly barraged by data, hence the term “data-rich”. The rise of telemedicine due to the pandemic has put more pressure on providers around the country to ensure their systems are “data-rich” to optimize data flow, transmission, and infrastructure. While cloud infrastructure will continue to be healthcare’s future, modernization must be held a priority regardless of the industry’s reputation for being slow to catch up on technological advances.
EHR and the Pandemic
Becker’s Hospital Review discusses how providers can boost EHR adoption with a new approach. The article mentions how the pandemic has essentially force healthcare systems around the country to prepare for EHR conversions by configuring EHR go-live processes, delaying implementations, creating common IT pain points. A provider from Houston, Texas mentions how she believes that the nuances of EHR can only best be learned by peer-to-peer training. These sessions can lead to better understanding of specialty-specific workflows, functionality, improving physician adoption.
Last Updated on January 14, 2021