Editor's Corner

Welcome to this week's issue. As you'll see below, most of our coverage is focused on regional health information network initiatives. I don't know if that's a coincidence or if there's some kind of perfect RHIO storm emerging here, but there's definitely lots to tell this time around.

This week I'm going to let a physician contributor take over the Editor's Corner podium. FierceHealthIT reader Dr. Narayanachar Murali, a gastroenterologist based in Orangeburg, S.C., has some strong opinions of the progress of EMR adoption in the U.S., and what needs to be done to make rollouts work. Here are his thoughts:

There seems to be a rat race driven by the testosterone of high-speed connectivity and raw computing power that makes the CEOs of hospital declare they are fully connected and in sync with the President's IT policy. The media reports these events in the same vein. Billions have been poured into EMRs with very little to show for it. Unless they know what they are going to do with the information they are gathering, it will be a road down a financial abyss for hospitals, which are reeling under the onslaught of competition from private clinics and single specialty centers, along with steep cuts in reimbursements (look at the mistake of EPIC proportions made by the Kaiser group in CA).

What the hospitals and hospital physicians need is a proper searchable digital filing system that can be accessed by any treating physician, with a patient's permission, from any computer connected to the Internet. There is no reason to make EMRs anything but patient-centric. Making EMRs useful to administrators, insurance companies and pharmaceutical benefit managers will serve the patients poorly at a huge expense to the taxpayers. It is a hospital-funded welfare system for the computer geeks. There is no reason to increase bandwidth and waste lot of money. There is no reason why a primary care physician wants to download 400 MB digital MRI scan to his office computer.

I do not blame the vendors of EMR and computer systems for selling snake oil. The blame for this kind of excess lies squarely on the hospital administrators and key physicians who recommend these systems without researching their specific needs. Until they understand these complex issues properly it is better for the President and his inner circle to keep out of revolutionary IT ideas for the healthcare sector. Let us fix the looming problem of catastrophic healthcare at an affordable price for all Americans first!

So now, it's back to you, readers. Do you agree with Dr. Murali that EMRs should be patient- rather than administrator-focused? Do you have an alternate model in mind for successful EMR rollouts? Write to me and let me know what you think (offbeat ideas are more than welcome). Have at it! - Anne