Some Health Care Pros Leery of Electronic Medical Records

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Clinical Information System Response Times

A Compuware survey of health care professionals from organizations large and small revealed the majority are not satisfied with clinical information system response times.

While the federal government is pushing for a broad migration to electronic medical records, with the idea of making health care more efficient and less costly, plenty of issues must be addressed first. My IT Business Edge colleague Lora Bentley mentioned several of them in a post from July, including the government's fuzzy definition of what constitutes "meaningful use" of records (which organizations must prove to get stimulus funds), a lack of standards, concerns over patient privacy and questions over how to integrate all of the data.


As if those challenges weren't enough, consider that not all of the health care professionals being asked to use electronic medical records have warmed to the idea. Lora touched on this in her post, mentioning a Compuware survey that indicated a majority of respondents found the performance of their clinical information systems unacceptably slow.


So I wasn't exactly surprised when Steven Zink, the vice president of Information Technology and dean of University Libraries at the University of Nevada, Reno, told me in our recent interview that physicians aren't exactly eager to adopt electronic medical records. Zink is responsible for an electronic medical records initiative at the university's medical school and its 14 clinics. The topic came up when I asked him about projects in his pipeline. He said:

A huge one that we are involved in is the medical infrastructure in the state. The University of Nevada Medical School is in Reno but has a campus in Las Vegas and 14 clinics. We are in the midst of upgrading all of those networks, with virtualization on the desktop, and preparing for a rather quick move into electronic health records. We've also deployed a Web-based records system at our nursing clinic. We're looking at doing that at one of the other clinics. We don't know yet whether we'll go with that or with one of the more traditional providers. There is clearly a change taking place with medical records.

He mentioned technical challenges, such as data integration and a need for large amounts of bandwidth to accommodate imaging across networks. But they pale in comparison to cultural challenges. He said:

Your ultimate customer, at least for implementation, is not the patient but the physician. Physicians have come to believe that each implementation is going to cost them about a patient or two a day, which directly affects their bottom line. So this is part of the resistance. Many physicians have been through failed technical implementations before.

Younger doctors entering the medical field seem more receptive to the idea of electronic medical records than their older peers, Zink said. Of course, they may not feel that way for long if initial implementations of electronic medical records don't go smoothly.


But heavyweight technology vendors including IBM, Informatica, Microsoft, Oracle, DataFlux, SAP and SAS are rolling out solutions that should help. IT Business Edge blogger Carl Weinschenk last month wrote about progress being made on several fronts. He referenced a Center for Disease Control's National Center for Health Statistics study that found the number of physicians using electronic medical records systems in their offices recently passed 50 percent.