NYT on Doctors and EMRs

The New York Times has an article about the recent NEJM report on the low uptake of EMR software by US doctors:

Dr. Paul Feldan, one of three doctors in a primary care practice in Mount Laurel, N.J., considered investing in electronic health records, and decided against it. The initial cost of upgrading the office’s personal computers, buying new software and obtaining technical support to make the shift would be $15,000 to $20,000 a doctor, he estimated. Then, during the time-consuming conversion from paper to computer records, the practice would be able to see far fewer patients, perhaps doubling the cost.

“Certainly, the idea of electronic records is terrific,” Dr. Feldan said. “But if we don’t see patients, we don’t get paid. The economics of it just seem so daunting.”

Private and government insurers and hospitals can save money as a result of less paper handling, lower administration expenses and fewer unnecessary lab tests when they are connected to electronic health records in doctors’ offices. Still, it is mainly doctors who bear the burden making the initial investment.

“We have a broken market for electronic health record adoption because the people who gain financially are not the people who pay,” said Dr. Blackford Middleton, a health technology expert at Partners Healthcare, a nonprofit medical group that includes Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

To fix the market, Dr. Middleton, like others, recommends that the government play a role in providing incentives or subsidies to speed the use of computerized patient records in the United States, whose adoption rate trails most developed nations.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/19/technology/19patient.html?ei=5087&em=&en=a96bd12a6eac39e3&ex=1214193600&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1214035886-aTTu+8k374ncfMANn9iAXw

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Dr Chris Paton

Dr Chris Paton is the Group Health for Global Health Informatics at the University of Oxford.

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