Hospital EMRs/EHRs: the plan versus the reality

The Plan: Obama wants full EHR by 2014

The Reality: Only 1.5% of nonfederal hospitals report having full EHRs:

Only 1.5% of nonfederal U.S. hospitals use a comprehensive electronic health record system, and only about 8% use a basic EHR in at least one unit that includes physician or nurse notes, according to the study. The report, which based its findings on survey responses from nearly 3,000 hospitals, appeared in the March 25 online version of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The unexpectedly low levels of EHR adoption rates in hospitals suggest that policymakers face substantial obstacles to achieving health care performance goals that depend on implementing health information technology, the study’s authors said.

EMR/EHR technology is still too expensive, too non-interoperable, and too user unfriendly for widespread use.  It’s a good idea, but it’s still in the early adopter stage which is itself fraught with peril:

Early adoption does come with pitfalls: early versions of products may be buggy and/or prone to malfunction (such as the Commodore 64 or Xbox 360), overpriced (iPhone), or prematurely obsolete (8 track tapes, Betamax, HD DVD). Furthermore, more efficient, less expensive versions of the product usually appear a few months after the initial release.

Advocates of EMR/EHR implementation should recall the wisdom of the old maxim “Make haste slowly.”

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