SearchCIO.com senior news writer Linda Tucci wrote an excellent, layered story yesterday on electronic health records. “Privacy issues, interoperability issues, liability and physician reimbursement for all that extra virtual attention are potential deal breakers as the medical practice goes electronic,” she writes. “But most important, people have to understand why e-health is good for them.”
Electronic health records are certainly a hot topic in the presidential campaign. Those of you who watched Tuesday’s town hall-style debate between Democratic candidate Barack Obama and Republican candidate John McCain heard Obama say that he would cut health care insurance premiums by as much as $2,500 a year by investing in prevention and improving electronic health records.
There are several news sources taking aim at Obama’s assumptions. The Washington Post explains that his campaign is relying on a 2005 study by nonprofit think tank Rand Corp., which estimated that the nationwide adoption of paperless health records would result in $77 billion in savings.
But the same study estimates that the shift wouldn’t be completed until 2019, after Obama (should he be elected) would be out of office. Furthermore, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has put out its own paper, “Evidence on the costs and benefits of health information technology,” which argues that a 90% adoption rate over the next decade is unlikely, as moving to a fully computerized system of medical records would be prohibitively expensive for small and medium-sized medical practices. In his blog, CBO Director Peter Orszag wrote that the RAND study “suffers from significant flaws.”
So Obama’s claim is a reach, at best. As we head into these final weeks leading up to the election, just stick to the facts, please.
Do any of you have experience implementing electronic health records and, if so, what is your view of the timeline and obstacles to a reliable, secure and widespread system?