The Reality of EMRs

Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) are a big topic in the news lately. They are a central talking point in the healthcare reform debate, and a focus of current efforts to improve care and reduce costs.

Many politicians hope that a comprehensive implementation of EMR systems can save billions of dollars per year by having more efficient billing, tracking, and accountability. Health advocates look forward to a day when a patient’s entire record can be available to any authorized care provider, especially when it could mean life or death, as in a trauma situation.

However, the EMR revolution is not all upside. There are legitimate concerns about the security and privacy of these records. If a large, seasoned company like TJX can lose the credit card information for 45 million customers, imagine the risks of your health records and insurance information being stored on a server at your family doctor’s office.

Regardless of the pros and cons, the healthcare industry has been slow to adopt EMR systems. As of 2009, less than 42% of care providers have a basic EMR system in use, and less than 7% have a “fully-functional” system in operation, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (as quoted in this article at American Medical News).

So far, the industry is dominated by several proprietary systems, which do not work together well, if at all. As a result, your records at your Primary Care Doctor may not be transferrable to your local hospital. Your prescription history may not be easily visible to your heart specialist.

There are some initiatives underway to make records more interoperable and portable, but the current industry players are mostly seeking to maintain control over their own territories, and are stubbornly resistant to standardization. Or, alternately, each proprietary system provider is striving to become ‘the standard.’

Some efforts are underway to create standardized records repositories, where your records from disparate systems can be collated together, and made available to other providers when necessary. Google Health and Microsoft’s HealthVault are the most notable. The biggest challenge for these data libraries is to make sense of the data from so many different sources, which can be organized and delineated in very different ways, and combine it in a way that is relevant and helpful to patient care.

At KwikMed, we have ALWAYS had all of our patient records, data, history, and test results in an electronic format. We protect patient data and our systems with several layers of security technology, and we are constantly auditing and revising our security strategies. All patient records are available in an electronic format, although we do not currently support any proprietary system formats. We are waiting for standards to settle in, and when they do, we are ready to embrace and integrate with those standards. We look forward to a day when your KwikMed test results and prescription history can be viewed instantly by your Primary Care Doctor, or your Specialist, at your discretion, whenever it is medically helpful.