Despite federal commitment to e-records, many doctors lag behind

The administration has set a goal of 2014 for most Americans to have electronic health records. While major institutions have pushed forward on the movement, small medical practices have shown very little interest, a new study finds.

The government has been pushing electronic medical records for several years now. The administration has set a goal of 2014 for most Americans to have electronic health records. While major institutions have pushed forward on the movement, small medical practices have shown very little interest, despite the fact that keeping e-records clearly leads to better patient care, The Washington Post reports.

A recent study found that less than 1 in 10 doctors use an electronic record keeping system efficiently. An efficient system would collect patient information, display test results, help doctors make treatment decisions and allow health-care providers to document prescriptions and medical orders.

Some doctors don't adopt new digital record keeping systems due to security fears. If there was a breach, it could lead to bankruptcy. They are worried that sensitive personal information could be accidentally compromised or exploited by hackers, companies or the government.

"The big problem is that the vast majority of electronic medical-record systems do not give patients the right to decide who has access to the records," said Deborah C. Peel, a psychiatrist and founder of Patient Privacy Rights, an Austin-based nonprofit that wants greater safeguards. "They do not give patients the right to segment sensitive portions. . . . The electronic medical records in use now have been designed primarily for the convenience of physicians."

But more doctors are joining the ranks every year.

"This is a kind of tipping-point phenomenon, where if you get to a certain point, it might really take off," said David Blumenthal, an author of the study and the director of the Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "We just don't know where we are with respect to that potential tipping point."

Along with the federal government, pharmaceutical and technology industries argue that standardizing electronic records would help providers improve patient care, reduce errors, curb unnecessary tests and cut paperwork.

"There is very compelling evidence that at the end of the day, once you have good implementation and you're done, your systems work better. But getting there is not easy, and both the financial and disruptive elements have held a lot of doctors and hospitals back from taking this on," said Ashish Jha, an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, who helped lead the study.

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