Monday, March 9, 2009

Be Afraid. Be very Afraid...of National Electronic Medical Records

The development of the electronic medical record seems like a good idea...on the surface: availability across different clinics; quicker access to your information; more accurate billing and more accurate prescriptions. Most people I know don't do this but, I've been requesting my own copy of my medical records from my doctors for about 10 years now. I bring my folder to my appointments and can show my tests and exams to every new doctor I meet. With the health insurance merry-go-round I've been on for the last decade, my copies have really come in handy. For shit's sake, I keep all my maintenance records for my truck, why would I rely on some anonymous admin or DBA to keep track of my health records?

Now that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (H.R.1) was passed by Congress and signed by our President, we are falling headlong into a government database of all our health records. A lot has been written about how scary that will be for us healthcare consumers. I already had lots of reasons why I didn't want my government keeping track of my health: privacy; inefficiency; rationing; higher costs and mandates.

Sandy, at Junkfood Science, presents a number of issues I hadn't considered. I think her's are way more scary than the ones I had. Here are some snippets.

The loss of humanness of medicine and the private and personal relationships built between patients and their doctors.

...the focus for doctors becomes clicking and responding to hundreds of little boxes and prompts.

...the personal relationships built between a doctor and patient is integral to improved health outcomes and that’s not built with a keyboard and computer screen.

In all examinations of the purported benefits of electronic medical records, the undeniable fact arises: they aren’t about caring for people, but about profits. They have yet to show that they improve actual outcomes for patients or reduce medical errors (let alone healthcare costs), while they have been shown to impose new risks for many patients. And they certainly aren’t really about streamlining care for caregivers or enhancing patient privacy.

I've already seen this myself. The doctor spends about half his time in silence clicking away with me sitting there half naked in one of those gowns.

Sandy's post doesn't address these issues, so I'll throw them out there. I'm sure it's safe to say that we all have had "issues" with out computers. Can you imagine what it will be like when you are sitting with your doctor (who is 30-60-90 minutes behind schedule) and all of a sudden the screen goes blue? How will you feel about some Washington intern rifling through your list of medications and aliments? How would you like to see your latest MRI or Pap smear on YouTube?

Go here for the full article: Junkfood Science: Dr. Computer

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