Health IT a quantum leap from other industries

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Many physicians are dissatisfied with electronic health record systems, according to a recent survey of members of the professional networking site Sermo. Forty-four percent of respondents said EHRs are not designed with physicians in mind; 15 percent said they believe EHRs lower the quality of care; and 73 percent said EHRs are a distraction from the physician-patient relationship. Less than a third of respondents had a favorable opinion of EHRs, down from 39 percent in 2011.


That’s a big drop. One possible explanation is that, because of the Meaningful Use incentive program, many physicians who don’t like the technology are adopting it to obtain the government funds while they can. But the other findings suggest that EHRs are not well designed for physician workflow and that many doctors feel they’re being forced to spend more time on the computer, leaving less time for interaction with patients.


A pair of Harvard informatics experts, Kenneth D. Mandl and Isaac S. Kohane, think they have a solution to these problems. In a New England Journal of Medicine article, they say it’s a “myth” that healthcare requires complex, highly specialized information systems. They acknowledge that in certain areas, such as “the content of medical rules and decision-support rules,” health IT is unique. But on the whole, they argue, EHRs could use many of the generic tools, applications, and database structures that are common in other industries. If vendors followed that approach, EHRs could be much cheaper and the workflow burden on physicians could be much lighter, they conclude.


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