Few will argue against the benefits of an integrated Electronic Medical Records (EMR) System, which has gained popularity and momentum in recent years. White House advocates have mandated the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to encourage physicians to deploy the technology. Despite what appears to be strong support in the community for the adoption of EMR Systems, its adoption by physicians has been slow in coming.
The promise of an EMR System goes way beyond the obvious, which is the transition from paper to electronic. Once implemented, medical professionals will be working with electronic records, and that means the ability to reduce medical errors is enhanced; the knowledge of patient care is improved; best practices in medical service delivery emerges; the accounting process can be optimized, and perhaps more importantly, a single comprehensive medical record that represents the patient is produced. Taken a step further, integrated medical and dental records would provide not only physicians, but also dentists with access to all medical and dental encounters related to the patient. This would be possible because physicians and dentists would be accessing and updating the same health record.
The benefit of Electronic Medical Records may only be realized once there is a meaningful adoption of the practice in the health community. In a way, it is akin to the chicken and the egg problem: practitioners will adopt once the benefits are realized, but benefits may only be realized once there is widespread adoption. Adoption is less of a concern with larger institutions and their providers, given that they have the resources to dedicate to the implementation of an EMR System. The real concern is with smaller providers who lack the resources to do so. Given that a significant portion of healthcare services is delivered by smaller practices, their participation becomes all the more important. [Read more…]