It is amazing to me how persistently resistant practicing physicians are to electronic health-record adoption.
The recent article in the Archives of Internal Medicine was interesting at best. The data were obtained in 2003-04, when ambulatory EHRs were just becoming somewhat popular. The products available were basic, and meaningful reporting programs were almost nonexistent. EHRs have evolved significantly since 2003 and today they have far greater capabilities for disease tracking and reporting, as well as being much more user-friendly.
Let's ask the airline industry if they could even exist without computerized record-keeping. Let's talk to UPS and FedEx and see if they think computerizing their industry has made a difference. How about the banking industry? Has it added to their efficiencies?
Why are so many players in healthcare, especially private physicians, so resistant to transitioning to what is clearly a process we will all have to go through. This is 2007, not 1950! The world is computerized and not just because it is a trend, but because it works!
I have been using an EHR since 2003 in a three-physician primary-care practice. I cannot even imagine my professional life without it. There are so many obvious advantages: organized, legible record-keeping; direct interfaces with labs and radiology departments; fewer prescription errors with e-prescribing; decision-support (pop-up sensitivity can be easily controlled by the user); patient-summary sheets (continuity-of-care record or CCR) for admissions and consultants; remote access to all your records from home, the hospital or anywhere in the world; disease registries; and accurate disease-management reporting. I could go on and on!
Imagine an emergency room physician having instant Internet access to a summary sheet listing a patient's demographics, past history, problem lists, medication lists, allergies, recent tests and even advanced directives. Imagine all of a patient's lab results, no matter how many lab departments he or she went to in the past year, presented in one organized, chronological screen shot. Imagine no more; these functionalities are a reality if you use an EHR.
It appears the two major barriers to adoption are money and time. In 2007 there are many reasonably priced, certified EHRs ideal for the small office practice. Yes, it does take time to load your patients' data into the system, set up your macros and get comfortable with the new process. After three to six months, however, the benefits are tangible and clear. You eventually realize your record-keeping is simple, accurate, easily accessible and highly efficient.
It is time for private docs in our country to stop their irrational resistance to this inevitable transition, get over their unfounded fears and realize the obvious benefits of EHRs. They are still evolving, and only with acceptance by more and more physicians will we be able to improve their value even further.
As Albert Einstein once said, "Know where to find the information and how to use it. That's the secret of success."
Al Puerini, M.D.Family Health & Sports MedicineCranston, R.I. To submit a letter to YOUR VIEWS, click here. Please include your name, title and hometown.