Electronic Health Records: A Physician’s View

Driving to my medical office one spring morning on the Dallas North Tollway, I was taken aback by a massive billboard extolling the virtues of electronic health records (EHRs) at a local health conglomerate, to coordinate the transmission of patients’ medical information between the many hospitals and physicians within its system. The sign declared that “all who need your medical record will be able to obtain it,” as if this were some sort of incontrovertible benefit.

Then I recalled reading about Donald Berwick, a physician who served as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), who thinks highly of EHRs, in Medical Economics magazine, no less. So highly, in fact, that he believes that without EHRs, “we’re going to continue practicing with our hands behind our backs.” The man must have practiced medicine on a different planet. We already have the best medical system on this planet and EHRs will only serve to erode it, in my opinion. In fact, he doesn’t really practice medicine at all any more; he just apologizes for the latest form of governmental health intrusion known as “Obamacare.”

Are Physicians Using EHRs “Meaningfully”? Health care providers, patients, policymakers and payers all share the same vision of an efficient medical system powered by information technology. However, according to a 2014 survey of the Texas Medical Association (TMA), more than 30 percent of Texas physicians do not utilize EHRs in any form whatsoever. However, the percentage of non-EHR users could be much higher. The TMA emailed the survey to 30,250 physicians and medical residents for whom it had email addresses, and received 1,552 responses. Surely, the 95 percent who did not respond include a higher percentage of physicians who don’t use EHRs.

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