Push for electronic medical records developing into yet another hassle for primary care physicians

LETTER — Posted Sept. 13, 2004

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Regarding "Health IT chief: Public-private partnership needed for EMRs" (Article, July 26): As a family physician and primary care provider, I have great reservations about computerized medical records. It appears we will soon have another unfunded government mandate to take all of our thousands of charts and place them on a computer database. Coming from the experience of the computerized billing mandate for Medicare patients, this is a bad idea.

Primary care physicians are the lowest paid and the most utilized by patients. These unfunded mandates are huge burdens financially, mentally and emotionally.

Our paper records have stood the test of time and are far more reliable and confidential than electronic records. Yet we are asked to change to an expensive technology after spending thousands of dollars on computer hardware and software which is less than perfect, just for our billing purposes.

I can only guess how much more expensive computerized medical records will be to our practice. The cost and time involved to initiate and maintain computer medical records are the main detriments to implementation reported thus far in professional publications.

In addition, imagine the number of HIPAA violations that probably will occur with the touch of a keyboard on a computer medical record, and how many fines will be assessed against physicians as a result.

Computer information is only as good as the input from overworked and shorthanded medical staffs that have been made necessary because of reimbursement cutbacks, again mandated by the government.

This family physician wants assurances from the government that our professional viability and reputation will not be further damaged by programs designed to improve one thing and, in the process, damage many other things.

I am glad that David Brailer, MD, PhD, who is heading the national health information technology initiative, is at least negotiating less-expensive access to computer software for primary care providers. This may blunt some of the financial impact before full compliance with computerized medical records is federal law.

William V. Choisser, MD, Orange Park, Fla.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/09/13/edlt0913.htm.

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