Blog | Thursday, August 29, 2013

Electronic medical records save money! (Never mind)

Electronic medical records (EMR) were supposed to rewire the medical grid. It would increase efficiency, reduce redundancy, improve quality and reduce costs. On these measures I offer a grade of 0 for 4. Ask any practicing doctor how EMR has impacted on his practice and be prepared for some remarks that differ from the government's Kool-Aid talking points. EMR, thus far, hasn't been ball bearings for the system. More often, it gums up the works.

The government spent billions of dollars with cash payments to induce hospitals and doctors like me to jump on board the EMR express. The Rand Corporation helped to fuel this euphoria in 2005 when it predicted exaggerated benefits of EMR. By the way, this study was financed in part by EMR companies whom, I politely suggest, had a vested interest in the study's conclusion. Rand denies that they were unduly influenced by their backers, and I don't claim that they caved on their principles. Nevertheless, the propriety of taking money from folks whose survival may depend upon the study's outcome is ethically problematic. But, Rand was wrong and has publicly admitted it now. The Rand folks are now back flipping across the countryside with new and improved pronouncements stating that EMR has added to medical costs and hasn't delivered on its other rosy promises.

This wasn't an epiphany. Many folks in 2005 didn't swallow the Rand bait. The Whistleblower was blowing hard but apparently the frequency was above what human ears can perceive. EMR is a money pit that has made many companies rich. EMR systems are expensive, clumsy to use and do not communicate easily with other EMR systems. Patients have the notion that the hundreds or more EMR systems out there can easily communicate with each other. They can't. I have a few posts on EMRs, and they're not pretty.

The point here transcends the EMR mirage. How many other promises of Obamacare will crumble in the years ahead? Again, this won't be a revelation. Many of us were shouting about this on day 1. No one could hear us above the din of health care reform. Will these reformers, like Rand, admit that they were wrong as the evidence piles up? Wouldn't that be the fair and balanced thing to do?

We're in the Era of Medical Ridiculousness. Call it EMR.

This post by Michael Kirsch, MD, FACP, appeared at MD Whistleblower. Dr. Kirsch is a full time practicing physician and writer who addresses the joys and challenges of medical practice, including controversies in the doctor-patient relationship, medical ethics and measuring medical quality. When he's not writing, he's performing colonoscopies.