One way single-pay advocates kid themselves about the cost of government-mandated “universal” health care is to ascribe magical powers to EMR. Typically delusional on this point is Maggie Mahar, who advises her readers that electronic medical records “guarantee many fewer errors, and much greater efficiency.”
I have been an enthusiastic advocate of EMR implementation in every hospital with which I have been associated. But I also know that it won’t ”guarantee” anything. Software is no better than its users, and Nurse K offers some illuminating comments about the users upon which the success of EMR depends:
There are some doctors that won’t order certain things because they can’t figure out how to enter it on the computer or order something Q6 hrs PRN instead of “one time” because they can’t figure out how to switch the default order to “one time”. If they forget to order something, it’s the computer’s fault.
And this, presumably, is just a garden variety order entry system. Such systems are nowhere near as nuanced and difficult to navigate as a serious EMR set up. Yet the behavior that Nurse K describes is pervasive, and it won’t get better until medical software in general becomes easier and less time consuming to use.
The “progressive” answer to this is predictable: have our masters inside the Beltway issue a federal mandate requiring all medical practices and hospitals to have electronic medical records implemented by some date certain. That would, of course, be a very expensive failure.
New technologies are adopted en masse because they are easier, faster, and cheaper than the technologies they replace. Unfortunately, EMR is at present harder, slower, and more expensive than the technologies it is expected to replace. Until that changes, the health care system will never benefit from its magical powers.