16 Nov Impact of e-medical records will be felt at home
Madison, Wis. – It seems like we do e-everything these days. We make phone calls over the Internet. We shop, listen to the radio, buy music, even make friends, all online. We have every piece of information about ourselves in one e-form or another. Yet our medical records – arguably the most important information we have – are still done with pen and paper, clipboards, and file folders.
Gov. Jim Doyle and I don’t think that’s a great idea, for a number of reasons. Take patient safety, for instance. Something as simple as poor handwriting can lead to catastrophic medical errors, and building a real cache of medical data for the purpose of research and evidence-based medicine is cumbersome, at best. And then there’s the cost: old-fashioned medical records can lead to unnecessary duplications of tests and treatments, which can become expensive – not what we want when healthcare costs are skyrocketing.
That’s why, almost a year ago, Gov. Doyle created by executive order the eHealth Care Quality and Patient Safety Board, whose goal is to move all health records in the state to electronic form.
This is hardly a futuristic endeavor; it’s more like playing catch-up. Wisconsin joins more than half of the other states in pushing our healthcare system to keep up with the rest of our lives. With Epic Systems Corp., a global leader in electronic health records, in our own backyard, Wisconsin has no excuse not to take the lead.
This past summer, I was lucky enough to speak with my counterparts from around the country at the National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA) about our efforts to promote electronic health records in Wisconsin. I learned a lot in that meeting, including the fact that the most resistance to moving to an electronic system of health records comes from the doctors themselves.
Doctering the records
In a way, I can understand their reluctance. Change, especially the wholesale kinds of changes we’re talking about, is difficult under any circumstances. After all, we’re not just talking about making an electronic version of paper records. We’re talking about a fundamental change in the way medical information is gathered, structured, managed and transferred. Integrated, dynamic database records will take the place of file folders; PDAs will replace clipboards.
But, difficult as it may be, that change will ultimately serve the best interest of patients. We in the Capitol will continue to explore the best path to take with the state’s outstanding healthcare professionals, who have the best interest of patients at heart.
I learned at the NLGA meeting that patients won’t necessarily feel the impact of electronic health records in the doctor’s office. Rather, the real change will be felt at home. When you step on the scale in the morning, your weight will be updated in your chart. When you forget to take your medicine, you’ll get an e-mail reminder. That will redefine real primary care.
Electronic health records would allow us to build transparency into the health care system. Reliable, easily accessible data would vastly simplify many areas of medical research. It also would allow greater quality control, and help the state build incentives for quality care.
But it really comes down to this: health insurance premiums have gone up 73 percent in the last five years, forcing many small businesses to stop offering health benefits to their employees and causing an almost insurmountable budget crunch for state and local governments. Certainly, universal healthcare would ease some of those problems, but even in the far-off world of a single-payer system, we would need to keep costs as low as possible.
Technology has allowed us to cut costs in almost every other area of our lives; it simply doesn’t make sense not to let technology do the same in our healthcare system.
• Epic responds to critics of electronic record installation
• Darrell Pruitt: Careful with that electronic health record, Mr. Leavitt
• Tommy Thompson says capital needed for electronic health records
• Kalla: Have patience with electronic health records
• Doyle asks health professionals to overcome barriers
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.