Tuesday, September 03, 2013

EHR “Savings” 

Promoters of the electronic health record (EHR) tout cost savings as one of its benefits.
The August 26 issue of Modern Healthcare reports the emergence of a new category of health professional called the Medical Scribe.  It seems that doctors find it more cumbersome to make their notes in digital form than in handwriting and so they are employing individuals (Medical Scribes) to sit alongside them and enter their findings and decisions into a computer as they interview and examine patients.
The article reported the experience of one Dr. Michael Merry, an Internist/Pediatrician in Freeport, Illinois.  Before the EHR he could see 25 to 30 patients per day.  With the EHR that dropped to 20 to 24.  Now that he is using a Medical Scribe, he has “nearly returned to his pre-EHR productivity rate.”
So the “savings” turn out to be negative, consisting of the addition of the cost of the computer system, the computer software, and the Medical Scribe.  
Having the information available in digital form potentially may permit savings elsewhere in the care process, but according to the article Dr. Merry is a member of a group practice and it is hard to see how he or his group would benefit economically.
It all goes to show the folly of imposing information technology on an industry that is neither organizationally nor culturally positioned to benefit from it.

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