For me, one of the biggest sources of frustration with the current state of health care is the required implementation of electronic medical records systems (EHR). This is due, in large part, to two key factors: cost and inefficiency.

Because the federal government mandated that hospitals adopt and implement “meaningful use” of EHR system as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in order to maintain their existing Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement levels to avoid non-compliance penalties, software vendors were quick to develop astronomically expensive EHR systems. Not only were these systems incredibly costly, they were not ready for prime time. By that I mean, they were full of glitches and not fully designed to make the collection of patient data easier and more efficient to work with, which should have been the goal.

According to a recent article in Becker’s, hospitals across the country have spent tens of millions of dollars — and a handful of medical systems have shelled out upwards of a billion — on the implementation of EHR technology systems. This is in large part due to the fact that many hospitals are adopting system-wide packages in an effort to fast track compliance and efficiency versus implementing modules one at a time.

While some will argue that vendor charges are only part of the steep price tag, and that lack of training and other budget items (storage, infrastructure upgrades) make up a significant portion of the cost, I would counter that from what I have experienced, this is not the case. The price of purchasing these systems (i.e. vendor charges) are ridiculously high and I can’t help but think that government mandates have paved the way for those looking to profit above what is fair and reasonable.

Frustration over cost is also compounded by the fact that these systems are not fully functional and not meeting their intended objectives. In addition, their use often impedes the patient and care giver interaction.

I believe in technology and its power, especially when it comes to the integration of technology and health care. In fact, I think it is the future of this industry. However, as this specific technology exists now, it is simply not ready for prime time use. It forces its users to spend more time focused on collecting data than taking care of patients—and that is never a good thing.

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