When Does Meaningful Use Become Meaningless or Worse?
Many individuals believe that electronic medical records (EMRs) are a major component driving the digital transformation of the healthcare industry. The value of EMRs have been well published and include the following benefits:
- Remote access to patient information.
- Immediate access to the information.
- The elimination of chart chasing.
- The elimination of duplicate entry of the same information on multiple forms.
- The information is continuously updated.
- Concurrently available to many users simultaneously.
- Automated medical alerts.
- Automated reminders.
- Built-in intelligence which can recognize abnormal test results or potentially life threatening drug interactions.
- Provide a link to the clinician to protocols, care plans, critical paths, literature databases, pharmaceutical information and other databases of healthcare knowledge, etc.
- Provide information to improve risk management and assessment outcomes.
- Better population management.
- Reduction of medical errors.
- Decrease charting time and charting errors, therefore increasing the productivity of healthcare workers and decreasing medical errors due to illegible notes.
- Provide more accurate billing information.
- Will allow the providers of care to submit their claims electronically, therefore receiving payment quicker.
But are we fooling ourselves? Has anyone ever stopped to consider the impact EMRs will have on our healthcare delivery system if the information placed in them is not accurate?
For the fun of it, let’s take the same list of benefits and assume the worst…I wonder what our healthcare system might look like under this scenario?
- Remote access to inaccurate patient information.
- Immediate access to inaccurate information.
- Inaccurate information is concurrently available to many users simultaneously.
- Inaccurate automated medical alerts.
- Inaccurate automated reminders.
- Built-in intelligence which can inaccurately recognize abnormal test results or potentially life threatening drug interactions.
- Provide a link to the clinician to inaccurate protocols, inaccurate care plans, inaccurate critical paths, inaccurate literature databases, inaccurate pharmaceutical information and other databases of healthcare knowledge, etc.
- Provide inaccurate information to improve risk management and assessment outcomes.
- Ineffective population management.
- Increase in medical errors.
- Increased charting time and charting errors, therefore decreasing the productivity of healthcare workers and increasing medical errors due to inaccurate notes.
- Less accurate billing information.
- The ability for providers of care to submit inaccurate claims electronically, therefore delaying payment or worse, driving up the cost of healthcare due to billing confusion and the ordering unneeded tests.
Wow! That’s quite a frightening picture.
An interesting point to consider this particular week…National Medical Transcriptionist Week. A week first set aside in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan. At the time, President Reagan recognized the important jobs these highly trained professionals do when he proclaimed, “Record-keeping is a vital function in our society, and one of the most important records for every American is the medical record. That record, including reports prepared and edited by a medical transcriptionist from physician dictation, is the permanent history of a patient’s medical care. It is appropriate for our Nation to recognize the contributions of medical transcriptionists.”
Since 1985 technology has changed every aspect of our lives. But even with the passage of time, President Reagan’s words are more accurate today with the proliferation of electronic medical records. The EMR places today’s Medical Transcriptionist in the role as “gatekeeper” responsible for ensuring the information going into each and every person’s medical record is complete, accurate and available to all caregivers. We need these folks as a vital check and balance to make sure “meaningful use” doesn’t become “meaningless” or worse, is allow to negatively impact patient care.
I urge all Americans to carefully consider the important role these well trained and highly qualified individuals bring to our healthcare delivery system…in the future our lives or the lives of our loved ones WILL depend on it.
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