Why health data digitization is here to stay

Despite federal incentives and penalties, as well as payer demands, for health data digitization, some providers continue to resist the trend. One health policy and ethics analyst aims to address why in a recent Hospital & Health Networks article.

Emily Friedman, wondering if reluctant providers' concerns should be taken more seriously, says she can understand the resistance. She lists some of the arguments against digitization: primarily, lack of ease of use, citing a 2012 CompTIA survey that found 58 percent of respondents think systems are hard to use.

"Requiring busy people who might be technologically challenged to clamber up a steep learning curve is asking a lot, in or out of health care," Friedman writes.

Cost is another argument against implementation, she says. Some physicians, according to Friedman, perceive that vendors are selling software that's difficult to use, making Meaningful Use a challenge.

Interoperability, she says, is yet another resistance factor--she cites multiple instances of physician practices having trouble agreeing on a system to use and not being able to exchange health information between systems.

Privacy--which has proved to be a serious concern--clinical autonomy and risk of erroneous information round out Friedman's list of negatives.

Still, Friedman contends, digitization will happen, like it or not.

"I think those who continue to whine and jump up and down and scream and refuse to accept that healthcare record-keeping has entered the digital age for good are not doing anyone any favors," she says. "[We] would be served far better if we examined the challenges…and sought to remedy them."

Despite the initial cost of going digital, the savings are there, Friedman argues. So is improved quality, patient empowerment and fishing out fraud and rogue prescribers.

"I'm still excited about the potential for health IT systems, and I hope that those who are not can get over it and help usher in this new era," Friedman says.

To learn more:
- read Friedman's piece in Hospitals & Health Networks

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