Monday, March 28, 2005

CDC REPORTS ON EMERGENCY MEDICINE AND IT

Our Take on Key Health Stories of the Week
March 14, 2005
America: Behind the Times
CDC reports limited use of Electronic Health Records
Mid-month, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study concluding that fewer than 1 in 3 hospital emergency and outpatient departments use Electronic Health Records (EHRs). Once again, when it comes to digitization and facilitation of valuable information, the healthcare industry is exposed for its inexcusable lag behind other economic sectors. While 3 out of 4 doctors’ offices use computerized billing systems, only about 17 percent use EHRs in their businesses.
The CDC’s report was another disappointing yet necessary reminder that we still have a long way to go in promoting wide-scale acceptance of information technology as fundamental to the attainment of higher quality healthcare at lower overall cost.
Unfortunately, as different institutions experiment with their own idea of what HIT should be, there are likely to be bumps along the road to better health quality at a lower cost. The experience of Cedars-Sinai Hospital, spotlighted on front page of the March 21 Washington Post illustrates what can happen when a medical community resistant to change is forced to use a cumbersome application they believe impedes their skill of applying judgment.
A paper-based system of healthcare is an ignorant system: the highly fragmented and compartmentalized system of storing vital health information in a paper format kills the equivalent of a plane load of Americans every day. In a Nation in which preventable medical errors are the fifth leading cause of death, it is a moral outrage that we do not yet have a framework in place for the rapid adoption of interoperable HIT. As many as 98,000 Americans dying each year because of preventable medical errors is not a statistic – it is a tragedy. What is essential now is that leaders considering HIT adoption should begin planning with a comprehensive, community-wide vision inspired by a commitment to interoperability.
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