Issues With Electronic Medical Records in 2011

Many problems have surfaced in the large-scale adoption of EMR. These are essentially problems of HIT usability that have directly or indirectly influenced the benchmarks set for patient safety or providing medical care. For instance, the Florida Board of Medicine is trying to highlight the fact that the large scale electronic medical record adoption can induce more errors in the processing of patient information. Here, it was highlighted that many of the default settings in the EMR software offered by leading vendors led to compromising upon secrecy of patient health information. This has largely led to the violation of medical record integrity.

The default settings often choose conventional or older testing methods wherein the results of the test reports are interpreted in a more conservative manner. Doctor Rosenberg of the Florida Board of Medicine even illustrated an example of how such a problem led to the spreading of cancer in a woman and eventually, removal of her uterus merely due to default EMR settings that were unknown to her physician. Such examples don’t mean that using electronic medical records is not useful or adopting EMRs for gaining government incentives is wrong. However, if the adoption of electronic medical records facilities is meant to improve the quality of healthcare services, there is a greater need to research the risks associated with EMRs before enforcing electronic systems on all covered entities.

This also means that the federal government, prepared to offer billions in stimulus money, needs to earmark some spending for testing issues such as interoperability of EMRs and their chances of impacting quality/accuracy of healthcare information. Another problem in EMR systems offered by some vendors is that physicians are often faced with information that is rather worthless. Maintaining patient information records in overtly comprehensive manner means that irrelevant information is provided to the physician and valuable time is wasted and the billing costs are also inflated.

More evidence regarding problems of EMRs has been presented in the recent issues of Health Services Research. The researchers here concluded that even among the more advanced of EMRs there is a greater chance of rise in healthcare costs. This is because using EMR systems can induce the need for greater staffing, increased information storage demands and lengthening of patient information processing time. This is underlined by the fact that most of the bigger healthcare settings that have used EMR systems insist that using an EMR software does lead to rise in the nursing volumes.

Some of EMR software is known to provide incorrect dosages since their calculation of dosage is based on data collected over the last, few years without providing sufficient room for changes that can be induced due to sporadic reasons. Some experts opine that many of the retailed electronic medical records are aimed at improving the coding accuracy but they tend to maximize reimbursements indirectly. This means that the clinician functionality is a bit compromised. Yes, the sharing of patient information through various EMR systems is easy but this doesn’t ensure that the physician notes are correctly interpreted by all covered entities viewing such information. Thus, the question is that whether adopting EMR actually helps in improving the quality of medical care to the extent that its imperfections can be ignored.