Are EHRs Really Successful?

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One of the main topics we cover in HCE is the implementation of electronic health records (EHR). So, naturally, a recent article published in InformationWeek under the headline “’Not One Successful EHR System in Whole World’” caught our eyes.

Reporter Neil Versel writes, “While federal health IT officials were touting the perceived successes of their efforts to increase physician usage of electronic health records (EHRs), one longtime advocate of EHRs was criticizing the whole direction of health IT policy.”

The advocate is C. Peter Waegemann, founder of the Medical Records Institute in Boston, Mass. He charges that the reason why there isn’t a successful EHR system in the world is because “user friendliness, usability, and interoperability are not there.”

Waegemann believes that the government and by extension, health systems are focusing “too much on documentation [for the purpose of reimbursement].”

While the Obama administration has referred to this as gaming the system, Waegemann feels that it hasn’t been “aggressive enough,” a charge to which the administration is no stranger when it comes to the healthcare-reform debate. In this instance, Waegemann is referring to the $27 billion federal Meaningful Use EHR incentive program. He feels that Stages 2 and 3 are ultimately ineffectual because “they rely on old technology.” Some of this technology goes back to the late 1960s, in fact.

Looking at the healthcare landscape, he sees a field still dominated by too much paper and too little integration, especially of personal health records (PHRs) with the EHR. He feels that an EHR is needed “that is only an accessory to ‘e-care’” and should include “clinical decision support, the capture of clinical information at the point of care so the physician does not have to key in data, and automatic creation of documentation.”

He also charges that current patient portals are too “passive,” since patients aren’t “truly in control” and “able to enter their own information.” Waegemann believes that health information exchanges (HIEs) are a waste of money and resources. He implied that the whole exchange concept is already outdated.

“What we need is an app that links anyone in personal care, from physical therapist to chiropractor to pharmacist,” he said.

What is your take on Waegemann’s assertions? Is he correct? What do you as a CEO or CIO think about EHRs? In what ways could they be made more user friendly, usable, and interoperable?

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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