Digitize medical records; waiting puts lives at risk

side note: Another article on the importance of Electronic Health Records (EHR). Though the initial cost may be a burden for doctors, hospitals and practices, the rewards of an electronic system will begin paying immediate dividends. Studies show that error rates (and therefore, medical malpractice lawsuits) are lower for those physicians and hospitals that use EHR. With full access to a patient’s medical history, it will also be easier for doctors to avoid misdiagnosing patients, another leading cause of medical liability claims. Additionally, overall health costs will go down, as physicians won’t be re-ordering expensive tests and procedures that other doctors have already done.

With all these benefits – error reduction, access to complete medical history, cost reduction, and reduction in potential medical malpractice claims – plus the federal funding available through last year’s stimulus package – there is no better time for physicians, practices and hospitals to embrace EHR. As physician advocates, we hope this leads to lower medical malpractice insurance rates.

The Boston Globe

WHEN IT COMES to switching from paper to electronic records, medicine trails many other professions — even though study after study has shown that computerization will save not just money but lives. Even with the incentive of billions of federal dollars to cover much of the cost of the transition, doctors and hospitals have been slow to take even the first steps toward conversion. Apparently, they feel little or no responsibility for symptoms that get misdiagnosed because of inadequate information about a patient’s past medical care, let alone the tests that get repeated because no one has a record of the previous results.

The full Boston Globe Editorial is available here

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