When President Obama was running for the office of president, one of the things he kept talking about was the need for electronic medical records (EMR). When he was trying to push the health care bill, one of the things he kept talking about was electronic medical records. Obviously he wanted this to occur, and saw nothing but benefits coming from it.

There has been talk about electronic medical records for a long time now. How long? I remember sitting in a board meeting for the national organization back in 2001 and asking the board’s representative on a committee known as WEDI (Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange) if there had been any talk about encryption standards for getting this thing done. They hadn’t talked about it because they weren’t really even ready to talk further about electronic medical records since most hospitals had just come out of a period where they’d had to update their computer systems because of the big Y2K scare. Actually, for hospitals it was a big deal because many software contracts were set to expire by that date, which either meant buying new systems or upgrading, which was just about as ugly.

In a recent editorial in HealthLeaders Magazine written by the editor, Rick Johnson, he touched upon something rather interesting that I’ve found to be somewhat true. He said that most physicians have passed on EMR because physicians didn’t believe EMRs (actually, in the editorial it’s referred to as EHR, which stands for electronic health records; same thing) provided enough value for their time and money. Even with hospitals in some areas helping out with the costs and the set up, it seems physicians and their staff aren’t believing all that often that this is a better way to go than what they already have.

Case in point, I put myself up as an example. In the last few months I’ve gone for testing for 3 different things, all of which are related to the same hospital system. The hospital has EMR; the physicians aren’t on these systems. It’s not that they can’t be, just that they’re not. Each time I had to fill in information that not only have I had to fill in previous times on paper, even though they all asked for the same information. They all have their own form, which means you’re answering the same questions, only in a different place. Not only that, but in my case the first provider of services actually set up my other two appointments, and one would have thought that they’d be sharing both billing and demographic information with each other. Frankly, I know the medications I take, but only for the first appointment did I even think about what the doses were, and those happen to be the people who doled it out so they shouldn’t have needed the information to begin with.

Actually, I had another procedure at another local hospital, and wondered why they didn’t have my information already because earlier this year I had to avail myself of their urgent care services. I was told that they’re on their way to going in that direction; I kind of scoffed at the news. It’s not that I don’t believe it should come; it’s that I find it hard to believe that it’s taken this long for the hospital to even be connected with their own urgent care center, which is right across the street; makes me think physicians are going to have a much longer wait.

There’s news that all the local hospitals have gotten together and are going to pool their money and get all the physicians in the area up on EMR. The time frame is 4 years; not quite moving with all alacrity, but at least they’re pushing forward. I actually see both the benefits and negatives of EMR, but I’m going to try to remain positive for the moment. It seems the case for EMR comes from the government, the case against comes from physicians, and I’m in the middle once again. Well, I’m really not; I may talk about it a little later.