The Government Push for Electronic Medical Records

The Government Push for Electronic Medical Records  (MedScape Today-) *requires login

The economic stimulus plan currently being considered by Congress allocates $20 billion to health information technology such as electronic medical records (EMRs). Recent postings on Medscape Physician Connect (MPC), a physicians-only discussion board, offer frank opinions about the utility of EMRs in clinical practice — opinions that are decidedly mixed…

 

Waiting may not be an option for much longer, however. One provision of the government stimulus plan would impose reduced payments on physicians who are not “meaningfully using” information technology. Whatever is meant by the provision’s phrasing, one thing is clear: the push is on to go electronic. Physicians must learn how to make information technology work for them. One EMR expert says that it starts with the choice of systems. “Primary care practices should stay away from templates and stick to a new program by Praxis® [Infor-Med Medical Information Systems, Inc., Woodland Hills, California] that uses pattern recognition of similar cases as well as rare cases. It decreases the workload immensely. For specialty practices, I recommend templates, and Visionary™ Dream EHR [Visionary Medical Systems, Inc., Tampa, Florida] is excellent in being very user friendly,” says an MPC contributor whose research in medical management focuses on EMR systems.

Another MPC contributor notes that the technologically adventurous can customize an EMR system by using open-source software. In open-source systems, he explains, the source code needed for programming is included in the software, making the program infinitely adaptable. “When you buy most proprietary software, you have to accept the functions that come with it, as designed by the developers. With open-source systems, you can modify the software to your heart’s content…”

Is a Choice of Systems Really a Choice?

For some physicians, however, EMR systems remain a nonissue, and the heavy government funding of healthcare information technologies is nothing more than a smokescreen obscuring the real issues in primary care.

“The government and the public are not able to deal with the real problems facing medical practice and the real solutions necessary to turn it around (ie, reasonable reimbursement rates, malpractice reform, regulation of the unscrupulous practices of the insurance industry),” says an otolaryngologist. He adds that once healthcare information technology is “fully implemented and solves nothing, we can start to talk about real reform and real answers.”

 

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