Nobody has to remind Epic Systems Corp. Founder and Chief Executive Officer Judith Faulkner about the promiseand challengeof converting to electronic medical records.
The Verona, Wis.-based company that makes software for the healthcare industry has been among the most successful information technology firms in state history, with some 2,400 employees and a $200 million-plus campus headquarters.
The idea seems attractive: a coordinated system of electronic medical records that would allow a patient's health history to follow them for life.
But as of 2006, fewer than 10% of American hospitals have implemented health information technology, according to the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. Just 16% of primary-care physicians use EMRs.
The vast majority of healthcare transactions in the U.S. still take place on paper, a system that dates to the 1950s. Moreover, the healthcare industry spends just 2% of gross revenue on information technologya meager outlay compared with the 10% average for other information-intensive industries like finance.The Madison, Wis., area enjoys much-broader EMR coverage, with most clinics now embracing the technology. But Faulkner noted that the system doesn't operate as intended if everyone isn't linked together seamlessly.
"It's like FedEx," she said. "If it doesn't go everywhere, it doesn't work."
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