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Opinion: A call for a freeze on electronic health record systems

On Behalf of | Oct 1, 2013 | Doctor Errors

The recent reference in the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine to the “Tower of Babel” concerning electronic health records systems (EHRs) is, as most readers might quickly infer, far from being a compliment.

The transition from patients’ handwritten medical charts and records to online repositories of those documents and other patient-related information was widely touted not all that long ago as transformational, a change that would revolutionize medicine in a highly salutary way.

It hasn’t exactly worked out that way, with growing pains being manifestly evident.

The cited upsides of EHR proponents have been many and diverse: Among other things, electronic records have been lauded for their ability to promote seamless communications among medical professionals; to reduce medication errors; to assist doctors with making accurate diagnoses; and to generally create a format of logic and neatness that helps to reduce medical mistakes.

That may some day well turn out to be the case, but many instances of material problems related to such systems have resulted in the emergence of a wide universe of critics from within the medical industry.

One of them is doctor and Maryland congressman Dan Morhaim, who says that so many EHR systems have emerged to compete against each other that logical information sharing and consistency in learning and working with online processes is close to insuperable. Morhaim points to a recent study indicating that only about one in 10 doctors cite “meaningful use” from engaging with EHR systems.

Morhaim states that, furthermore, many facility administrators across the country have unilaterally made purchasing and implementation decisions concerning EHR systems without soliciting feedback from the very professionals who must daily use them.

Morhaim and many others are essentially calling for a time out on electronic health records. They want a deeper analysis and debate on their implementation conducted, and they want it to include doctors, nurses and medical technicians who most closely interact with EHR models.

Such systems must be far more user-friendly than many of them currently are, say critics. Until such is the case, strong criticisms will persist.

Source:  The Washington Post, “An electronic medical records mess,” Dan Morhaim, Sept. 27, 2013

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