Is the Government Over-Prescribing Digital Medical Records?

Carl Weinschenk

One of the most confounding things about government intervention is that the same mistakes seem to be made over and over. One of those problems -- micro-management -- seems to be cropping up again.


As blogged about by IT Business Edge's Lora Bentley, The New York Times and, earlier, the political site Politico reported that there is great consternation on the part of the medical community about the way in which stimulus money aimed at digitizing medical records is being awarded. Specifically, the fear is that the government is dictating too precisely what must be done and demanding significant and costly steps to be taken before the money is given out. The qualifying steps simply are too stringent to be practical, according to the sources cited and quoted in the stories.


Few doubt the advantages of brought on by the digitization of medical records. The concerns, the Times story says, were shared by small and big-name institutions. Said the story:

In meetings at the White House, doctors and hospital executives have conveyed the same message: the president's all-or-nothing approach could discourage efforts to adopt electronic health records because some of the proposed standards are impossibly high and the risk of failure is great. They pleaded with the administration to take a more gradual approach and reward incremental progress.

Politico follows the theme, which is the age-old liberal propensity to mix good intentions with hubris:

But as a particularly stringent and new regulation nears, numerous medical groups say that the aggressive government push to digitize is too much, too soon. Health information technology in the United States remains highly fragmented, so any large overhauls, experts warn, must work on a timeline that stretches years into the future.

There may be hope, however. APP refers to the health care legislation promulgated in March and not the stimulus as the driver of medical record digitization. The findings, as well as the underlying facts, are bit different as well. The writer said that two New Jersey hospitals-St. Peter's University Hospital in New Brunswick and the Hunterdon Medical Center in Raritan Township-are ahead of schedule.


The two hospitals, the story says, are eligible for as much as $40 million in rebates for beating the clock. St. Peter's is using a platform from McKesson Horizon Clinical Systems, while Hunterdon Medical Center is employing NextGen's Community Health Solutions..


Digitization of medical records is an ambitious-and, in some ways, very risky-undertaking. The government is right to be involved and to exert close oversight. But it also must recognize its limitations and defer to practitioners.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jun 9, 2010 2:31 PM MedicalQuack MedicalQuack  says:

There's no doubt that ONC and HHS need to "get their groove back".  We need balance between the online and real world here.  I write about that all the time.  Here's a lengthy opinion on this and the fact that we have people in leadership positions that don't understand the mechanics of Health IT, that wastes a lot of time with leaders who are not "hybrids". 



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