Medical Record Digitization

HIT or miss
The Economist, A special report on health care and technology, April 18, 2009, pg. 4

Why don’t we in the United States have digitized medical records? I’ll spare you the diatribe. This article makes a great case for why now is a great time to do what we should have done long ago. Digitizing medical records will go a long way towards modernizing our atrocious health care “system”.

The RAND Corporation, an American think-tank, examined the potential benefits of digitising health systems in a 2005 report. It estimated that, if 90% of hospitals and doctors in America were to adopt HIT over 15 years, the health system could save some $77 billion a year from efficiency gains (see chart 1). If health-and-safety benefits are taken into account, the gains could double, saving about 6% of the $2.6 trillion that will be spent on health care in America this year.

Cost savings is a good enough reason.

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in January compared a group of hospitals in Texas that has adopted advanced HIT systems with a group that has not. It found that the first group suffered 15% fewer deaths and 16% fewer complications, as well as enjoying lower costs.

Fewer deaths and complications makes this a no-brainer.

In March Kaiser Permanente published evidence in Health Affairs showing that its digital efforts have cut visits per patient by an average of 26%, thanks to more e-mail and telephone consultations. That saves money and increases efficiency, but patients seem to like it too.

Telephone and email consultations in lieu of expensive doctor visits sounds good to me.

The giant fiscal-stimulus package passed earlier this year by Congress includes nearly $20 billion to create a national health-information network, including incentives for hospitals and doctors to adopt EHRs. But various obstacles could yet get in the way.

Thank god those damn Republicans were voted out of power!

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