I'm a doctor, Jim, not a typist: Less EHR and more ER

Im a doctor, Jim, not a typist Less EHR and more EREven Doctor ‘Bones’ McCoy would have complained if Captain Kirk ordered him to switch to electronic health records (EHR), or else (and he served in a starship in the 23rd century). So it’s not surprising that in this the year of our lord 2015 many practitioners are tempted to hang their stethoscopes and deliver their resignation “in terms you can understand,” as Dr. Donald Westphall would say. As Charles Krauthammer writes in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post, “Virtually every doctor and doctors’ group I speak to cites the same litany, with particular bitterness about the EHR mandate,” in addition to “a never-ending attack on the profession from government, insurance companies, and lawyers . . . progressively intrusive and usually unproductive rules and regulations.”

According to president Obama, EHR would save $77 billion a year, plus thousands of jobs and lives. The plan to modernize healthcare over 10 years started with a $27 billion investment from the federal government, but that doesn’t mean aren’t at risk of financial loss. “As of Jan. 1, 2015, if you haven’t gone electronic, your Medicare payments will be cut, by 1 percent this year, rising to 3 percent (potentially 5 percent) in subsequent years,” Krauthammer writes. Moreover, there are “ruinous transition costs in equipment, software, training and time” resulting in small practices that “have closed shop, gone bankrupt or been swallowed by some larger entity.” He adds that “it’s 2015 and what have we achieved? The $27 billion is gone, of course. The $77 billion in savings became a joke.”

It’s not just about the money, though. An American Journal of Emergency Medicine study showed that ER doctors spend 43% of their time entering electronic data and only 28% with patients. Separate research published in JAMA found that family practice doctors spend an average of 48 minutes entering information every day. On top of all the lost time that could be devoted to doctor/patient interaction, the Health and Human Services inspector general reported in 2014 that “EHR technology can make it easier to commit fraud.” Krauthammer theorizes that that the “liberals” who “rammed this through” did so under the impression that healthcare could be digitalized the same way as banking – without much thought given to the difference between the two industries – and laments that “individual practitioners …  were already adopting EHR on their own, but gradually, organically, as the technology became ripe and the costs tolerable.”

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