I’ve been thinking a lot about the legislation that’s about to hit the fan in regards to investment in healthcare IT and in particular EHR and EMR softare. My biggest fear in this whole process is that the underlying assumptions being made will turn out to be wrong.
The following is a list of assumptions I’ve seen made in regards to the government’s investment in healthcare IT and EHR and its possible benefits. I’ll also offer a few comments on each assumption for people to consider.
Cost savings – The largest savings I’ve seen a medical practice receive from EHR implementation is in saved transcription costs. There’s some small savings from charting supplies and the like. Otherwise, where are the cost savings occurring? My guess is that if you polled those using an EHR you’d find very few cost savings. You would however find a number of new costs related to investment in technology. There must be some long term cost savings that the government sees that I’m missing.
Cut waste – I guess this has some minimal “Green” benefit. It just seems rather minimal to me.
Reduce the need to repeat expensive medical tests – I can’t wait for this benefit to be realized. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that the technology and more significantly the policies are in place to make this happen. Long term this benefit will be awesome, but we’re so far from realizing it that it’s hard for me to use this as a strong justification for the investment.
Save jobs – Health care has been relatively immune to lost jobs, but this investment will help save some jobs. We’ll just have to see if the money ends up going to big EHR companies who will just get richer in the process or whether this investment will do something significant in regards to saving and creating jobs.
Save lives by reducing the deadly but preventable medical errors that pervade our health care system – I’ve seen far too many research articles on both sides of this argument. Some say it helps prevent medical errors and others suggest that it may cause other errors. I’m not sure which way to think on this. In a perfect world it would certainly prevent medical errors. Unfortunately, a computer can only think so much. I’m afraid that an EHR isn’t the secret elixir we’d all hoped to use to solve medical errors.
I’m sure that I’ve missed other reasons. Feel free to add comments and other reasons I’ve missed in the comments.
I think I better work on a follow up article on the reasons why Obama should invest in health care IT. I think there are good reasons to invest in this area. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing about the subject. However, I think it’s interesting and valuable to have a realistic picture of why EHR implementation is important. I really am an EHR and EMR optimist.