The benefits and limitations of electronic medical records
By Wanda J. Venters The Denver Post Posted:
Electronic medical records (EMRs) have tremendous potential to transform our medical system. However, health care consumers and pundits hold some misconceptions about the current status of EMRs in the United States. Electronic medical records systems have two immense challenges, one involving patient privacy and another related to system coordination. These challenges can only be overcome through leadership, leadership and innovation by private companies and by regulation by the federal government. There are many advantages to EMRs - legibility of records, coordination with pharmacies, improved data collection. Electronic medical records (EMRs) will eventually improve record keeping and coordination of medical care. They will make outcome studies — the best way to control medical costs - much easier and more reliable. However, it is important to realize the limitations of EMRs. Decreased malpractice is not a prominent feature of the use of EMRs. The care provider is the single most important predictor of malpractice whether an office uses paper or electronic medical records. Further, EMRs do not always save providers time, which would allow them to either spend more time with each patient or see more patients. A recent visit to a friend who is still working in the army hospital were I did my internship 30 years ago revealed this phenomenon. Whereas we often saw 20 patients a day, the current residents in the general pediatric clinic can barely see 8. The electronic documentation of the encounters takes that much time. Electronic medical records are also limited by security and privacy concerns, but perhaps even more dauntingly; they are encumbered by a lack of coordination. The technology for EMR has not kept up with that of banking and other Internet services. Whereas I...