Health Information Exchange Featured Article

January 11, 2013

Study Reveals Unfulfilled Promises of Health IT, Cost-Effectiveness of EHRs

The increasing role of IT in healthcare has been able to ensure better services to patients and physicians, thanks to electronic medical records (EMR). Going digital and having computer-based patient records has made it much easier to record patient information, than using paper-based medical files.

Rather than having to write on a slip of paper, which could easily be lost or misplaced, as it gets placed in a patient’s folder, health information contained on the computer’s network not only simplifies data file storage, but makes it easier to manage and control medical records, and allowing physicians remote access to patients’ data whenever and wherever it is needed.

In essence, EMRs have provided a means to simplify the way to track, monitor and care for patients in real time. It made it possible to share a patients’ file when necessary instantly, but it has also greatly reduced the amount of paperwork that was once printed and managed.

In some ways, digital records have proven to be more reliable than conventional paper medical records, but in other ways, both patients and medical personnel agree EMRs may not be that exclusive of prying eyes as a result of unauthorized access.

They seem, for now, only as strong as the weakest link.

To help with EMR-related issues, however, there are an array of rights with respect to privacy that are covered under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to safeguard a patient’s file. 

What was once thought to be more valuable and cost-effective way of handling files by using health IT infrastructure in U.S. hospitals, and converting paper files to electronic health records (EHR), has not proven to be that profitable or productive, according to RAND Corporation’s objective analysis report – a 2005 study revealing unfulfilled promises of health IT over the years.

Even though there is evidence that EHRs have contributed to better healthcare and proven to be more efficient than traditional paper-based medical records, the expected savings fell low; therefore, the Congressional Budget Office, which is pouring money into health information technology in the widespread use of IT in healthcare to improve patient care and physician practices, will keep a close eye on the situation to see if electronic records are in fact capable of providing financial incentives to hospitals and doctors.

Also concerned about IT in healthcare to ensure there are cost benefits, other than RAND, is President Obama himself. His focus is on savings in healthcare costs, as well as support for the push and adoption of EHRs/EMRs to improve efficiency and patient care.

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Edited by Braden Becker