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St. Cloud, Minnesota

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Mike Bryant
Mike Bryant
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Electronic Medical Records Does it Make Sense?

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In our practice we are dealing with medical records all the time. Often, it’s their procurement which makes up a large part of the costs in a client’s case, so we watch the legislative issues that come up with reducing those costs. One help might be if the records all become electronic. If that happened, we would be able to quickly get them on a disk or emailed. This should reduce the cost in time and paper needed to retrieve them.

But, with some systems electronic and others still being by paper, we are seeing the problems that arise. It is not easy for everyone to read the records and they aren’t on paper. There in nothing like the frustration that arises when you have a meeting with a doctor and they can’t get into the records because they didn’t bring a laptop or the system is down. At that point you miss the paper pile. There is also the concern that arises when information like peoples personal records are transferred as part of an email attachment.

Many are also looking at the governments past failures and questioning if the money to change is worth it. The FBI spent $170 million in four years trying to modernize its paper-based case system. They abandoned the idea in 2005. The Federal Aviation Administration spent $1 billion in a failed attempt to get paper out of their the air traffic control system. Is it going to work better with medical records? Can we afford even taking the risk?

The New England Journal of Medicine, found that 4 percent of physicians had extensive, fully functional electronic records systems, while 13 percent had more basic systems. That is a very small part of the overall system. The stimulus bill specifies that $17 billion is to be spent in Medicare and Medicaid incentives for doctors and hospitals to begin keeping electronic records by 2011. In 2015, financial penalties will start being imposed.

Will the money be there to make this work? Many people have concerns, although a better system of providing information as a part of our health care needs to be looked at closely.