Is the automatic improvement in quality of care touted by the proponents of electronic health records a myth? Apart from improved care, the new system was also supposed to bring in remarkable cost savings as well as enhanced efficiency and accuracy. However, studies made in this regard show that various other factors have to be focused on to achieve the desired objectives. A recent report issued by the Rand Corporation highlights the disappointment of a large majority of healthcare providers and authorities with the electronic systems. The main shortcomings pointed out were that the systems were badly integrated and not user friendly.
Benefits Don’t Just Fall from the Sky
Health IT is potent, but if it is to provide the desired benefits providers will have to restructure their processes. The above mentioned report affirms that the drawbacks in the design of the IT systems providers use now is by and large responsible for the slowness in the emergence of positive results.
Many providers are reluctant to invest in the new system and would even pay the penalty rather than go through the hassles of implementing EHR. If healthcare entities are to be persuaded to utilize EHR,
- It should make the doctor’s job more efficient and simpler. User-friendliness is the keyword in this regard. Busy providers may not have time to undergo comprehensive training programs, and so the EHR system should be easy to operate.
- Ideally, the information should be stored in a single IT system, which can be retrieved easily by healthcare entities.
EHR Implementation plus Technical Assistance Can Help
The implementation of electronic health records if combined with steady technical assistance can help in improving patient care, as another study by Weill Cornell Medical College and the PCIP (Primary Care Information Project) of the New York City Health Department reveals. The study found that while practices with EHR exposure for nine months combined with technical assistance showed some improvement, those with minimal/no technical support failed to show any worthwhile improvement even after using EHRs up to two years. The study concluded that electronic health records are indeed advantageous and can also bring about good outcomes, but the EHR implementation should be supported by strong and enduring technical assistance.