If EMRs were so useful, incentives and penalties would not be needed

Posted Oct. 4, 2010

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Regarding "HHS-certified EMR systems expected to be available by fall" (link): This succinct report on the evolution of the electronic health record should set off alarms everywhere. Rewards will begin in 2011 for users, and penalties will begin in 2015 for physicians not using the approved systems favored by our government. Leave aside the issue of the implicit redefinition of what quality patient care means, if this is such a self-evidently good idea, why do we need carrots and sticks?

Practicing physicians didn't need government intervention for the word processor, computer or fax machine, yet I doubt there are many offices without these technologies.

Rewards and penalties are a compelling admission the proponents know these systems aren't going to help the physician to justify the cost.

The massive multiplayer online game industry runs on $1,500 computers and $20-per-month subscriptions. Online games require torrential flows of data and graphic displays far more complex than anything running in a typical medical office -- radiology excepted. When those folks design our systems without the ponderous hand of government, physicians will buy them. No subsidies necessary.

Norman J. Harris, MD, Tustin, Calif.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2010/10/04/edlt1004.htm.

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