In response to a Your Views letter written by Stuart Gitlow, "Time not right for large-scale EMR project":
With all due respect to Gitlow, I believe that his ideas are outdated, unenlightened, behind the times, old-school, and simply not in keeping with best practices in today's medical community. His statement that suggests he is worried about putting highly sensitive information into an electronic format indicates to me that he has not enlightened himself to issues in our healthcare information technology arena surrounding threats to the privacy and protection of patient data.
I'd like to know what the alternative process is that he has in place for protection of that extremely sensitive data. Is it a yellow-lined notepad in a file cabinet, in an office that may or may not have a security system, in a place where a thief could break in and steal info, or a fire or flood could destroy information? Patient data should be protected, backed-up and stored in off-site locations to avoid just such a threat. Unless Gitlow has taken steps to address these issues, the security of his patients' protected private health information is at risk and therefore, his exposure to lawsuits and the like increase because steps have not been taken to ensure the protection of that information.
Hurricane Katrina should have taught all of us a lesson in what can happen to unsecured and improperly stored patient data. The fact that Gitlow wrote his article post-Katrina worries me in that he obviously isn't seeing the big picture.
Also, his comments about the electronic medical record's functionality only lead me to believe that he has only seen one product that obviously was not best suited for his type of practice. Good EMR software will save physicians time, money, and will allow them to do their jobs easier and faster. Adopting an EMR into an existing practice can be time-consuming, as everyone knows, but once the system is in place, all functions within an office work faster and better and allow physicians the ability to spend more time with patients and less time dictating, charting, etc. Also, computer-generated SOAP (subjective, objective, assessment and plan) notes are much easier to read than handwritten notes that can be illegible and difficult to read. The electronic notes can also be much more comprehensive in scope than handwritten notes. They are also easy to transmit to others. It's easier to keep track of test results, referrals, diagnostic images, laboratory results, etc., when using an EMR, too.
Some EMR software systems allow patients to go online and access scheduling or medical history forms, demographic paperwork and the like, before the patient gets to the physician's office, or to access these online records through kiosks in the waiting room. Again, this allows patients to fill out medication histories, family health histories and the like within the confines of their own homes or at their own pace, which may lead to more robust information which, in turn, may help in assessing the patients.
There are myriad EMR software vendors from which to choose, some are specialty-specific and some are not. Some will fit a physician's needs, wants and desires better than others, but to say that all EMRs are bad, or to suggest that the time isn't right for EMR adoption, is simply an opinion that just doesn't fly.
Jamie ZayachSalt Lake City To submit a letter to YOUR VIEWS, click here. Please include your name, title and hometown.