Digital health records: Toss them out and start over?

Despite the millions they've spent on digitizing medical records, many hospitals would be better off just scrapping their systems, according to an article at Hospitals & Health Networks.

"Poorly designed and poorly implemented information systems are worse than useless, worse than a waste of those millions and billions of dollars," writes Joe Flower, a healthcare futurist and CEO of The Change Project Inc., and its healthcare education arm, Imagine What If.

"As we go through rapid, serious changes in health care, poor information systems will strangle your every strategy, hobble your clinicians, kill patients and actually threaten the viability of your organization," Flower says.

Technology that promised to be a fast track to efficiency and effectiveness has instead been a drain, consuming time and money, and seriously eroded one of the most important management tools: trust, he says.

He suggests organizations evaluating their systems ask questions such as these:

  • Were clinicians involved in its design?
  • Does it require more work, rather than less, from your clinicians?
  • Does it hide critical information?
  • Is it secure?

He says interoperability, one of the biggest challenges to healthcare data-sharing, is a con--one perpetrated by vendors solely focused on market share.

"Imagine what the financial world would look like if their IT vendors had convinced each bank and brokerage to build software that would not talk to anybody else's. Interconnectivity is normal. The reason it's not normal in health care is that some or most of the vendors don't want it to be normal," he says.

Flower suggests it's time to stop digging ourselves into even deeper holes, toss technology that doesn't work and just start over.

Dissatisfaction with EHR systems is widespread among doctors and nurses. In a recent Black Book survey, 98 percent of 13,650 registered nurses polled said their institution never asked nurses for their input on the system design. At the same time, 79 percent ranked the reputation of the information system among the top three reasons they would want to work at--or avoid--a particular institution.

Family practice physicians reported that EHRs meant 48 minutes a day in more work, according to a study published at JAMA Internal Medicine

To learn more:
- find the article

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