Blog | Monday, July 8, 2013

Scrap 'meaningful use' in EHRs and demand easy sharing instead

Yesterday I had a great time talking with an intern who was my third year student two years ago. His experiences during his internship influenced this question: Why do electronic computer systems not share information?

I had no good answer.

Perhaps we worry about the NSA tapping into the records, but what would they do?

While working at the VA, we often took advantage of the common medical record. Having good records allows one to avoid unnecessary repeat testing. It allows us to do better medication reconciliation. It provides the most important thing that a new physician can have: historical documentation.

In the U.S. we worry about privacy concerns. We have incredibly strict laws about medical records (compared to other countries). So I ask, how much money could we save with a common medical record? Yes, a common medical record that physicians could review. It would greatly help emergency care. I would make "doctor shopping" less costly. It would likely decrease opioid prescription abuse.

How important is medical record privacy? How many billions of dollars is it worth?

Some would argue that we should let the free market solve this problem. I love free market solutions, but in this situation we need a requirement that both inpatient and outpatient EMRs have a secure and easy sharing system. Vendors have no incentive to make this happen.

Physicians must start demanding easy sharing of medical information for our patients. Insurers should demand it. Actually I think patients should demand it.

db is the nickname for Robert M. Centor, MD, FACP. db stands both for Dr. Bob and da boss. He is an academic general internist at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, and is the Associate Dean for the Huntsville Regional Medical Campus of UASOM. He also serves as a frequent ward attending at the Birmingham VA Hospital. This post originally appeared at his blog, db's Medical Rants.