The Healthtrix: Free your medical records

If BHN decides to write a screenplay based on the ongoing roll-out of health information technology, should it be a comedy, a sci-fi soap opera or corporate-feeding-frenzy thriller?

The Healthtrix: (Free your medical records.)

Invasion of the EMR Snatchers?

Doc Hollywood Goes Digital?

Start with a federal agency called “Office of the National Coordinator” and it has to be a Cold War thriller.  Or somehow link the BIDMC staff working with the ONC to the ongoing drama back home and we get the scandalous romance ripped from the headlines. Or find buff superheroes could to swoop in and save the health care system from that melting glacier called paper. (Don’t get us started.)

Perspectives vary.

Today’s Boston Globe yells in a staff editorial – Bring out your dead files!

In addition to offering the carrot of billions of dollars in stimulus-bill subsidies, the Obama administration is wielding the stick of reduced Medicare payments to doctors who do not make the change by 2015. Already, some medical professionals believe that date is too soon. But if anything, the deadline gives medical providers too much time to put off the inevitable. Under no circumstances should the administration backtrack on its threat.

The conversion to electronic medical records will be a headache, especially for small practices led by physicians who got their training before the digital revolution. The federal government should assist not just with subsidies but also with technical guidance to ensure that doctors and hospitals have software options that achieve a range of goals, including interconnectibility and the capacity to transmit prescriptions directly to pharmacies.

The Globe cites studies that find medical errors kill 100,000 patients nationwide. But the piece notes that only 10 of the state’s 73 hospitals had a computerized system for doctors’ orders. According to the study, 1 in every 10 patients at six community hospitals in the state suffered serious medication mistakes. The editorial argues that the system will prevent errors like these.

But, reporting for  the Huff Po warns of  quite the opposite — Bring out your dead patients!

Scores of reports on file with the Food and Drug Administration detail consequences to patients when an electronic medical record system fails. Those reports, reviewed by the Huffington Post Investigative Fund, show that a central function of the record systems, known as computerized provider order entry, or CPOE, has been linked to instances in which patients died or suffered serious injuries.

Sounds kind of alarming. It is. Read the stories for details. At the same time, the feds pretty much admit to the potential problem with HIT and promise to do something about it.

So, does HIT prevent or cause medical errors?  Looks like it prevents some and causes others. Not a big surprise. Stay tuned.

One thing is sure — going digital seems to be a major problem for an industry that is otherwise in love with futurist technology.

In December, BHN’s Tinker Ready reported  how three Massachusetts towns struggled to wired for medicine.

More from BHN on HIT.

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