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EMR privacy issues causing friction in D.C.

Posted Jan 22 2009 5:54pm
T he new White House administration is pushing for electronic medical record (EMR) use as part of the recent healthcare stimulus package. Concerns regarding privacy issues for patients are providing some friction between stake holders. Over the past few years personal health information has been compromised because of security errors despite the federal privacy rules that were implemented under a 1996 law.

Obama stated that EMR use could prevent medical errors, save lives and create hundreds of thousands of jobs. I would take issue with this presumption. Electronic medical records don't prevent medical errors. In fact much of the time errors are committed due to EMR use. This is typically seen in emergency department settings when providers are ordering medications and they type in incorrect dosages. I see this happen all the time. Documentation of patient care is inadvertently typed into one patient's chart when it should be in another. Again I see this happen with regularity, especially with less savvy computer users. The use of such mediums to document patient care is also unlikely to save lives. EMRs may offer a number of advantages such as legibility and multi-provider access, they are very time consuming. The use of EMRs will definitely create jobs but this likely to be seen in the software and IT side of the house and not in clinical settings.

My feeling is that while EMR use does offer some advantages over pen and paper, it is not the end all be all and assuming EMR use will provide positive sweeping change to healthcare is a little presumptuous.

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