“Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy and save lives.” President Obama, Address to Joint Sessions of Congress, February 2009.
I grew up in the dark ages (per my kids) where I wrote all my school papers on a typewriter. Those were the days of carbon paper, correction tape, and changing ribbons – apologies to those who do not have a clue about what I am talking about. I first started learning about Word and Excel in 1995 and was thrilled with the ease of correcting errors, moving and inserting content, and organizing data. Hospitals were implementing bedside recording of vital signs and used computers for processing orders and charting. It was a whole new world. It was also the age of the emerging Internet and the possibilities were endless.
It is now 16 years later and my children’s pediatrician brings in an inch thick file to record their assessment and impressions at each visit. That file will have to be copied and mailed (maybe faxed) to a general practitioner when my kids graduate from their care. If the copy is not clear, or their handwriting is not good, there is an increased risk of error. What happened to the new world?
Electronic Health Records (EHR) seem like a no-brainer. Increased communication and decreased errors would appear to be a priority for any health care provider. However, despite state and federal incentives and successful examples of implementation, widespread adoption is slow. Utilization of EHR is even more crucial for individuals with developmental disabilities. Since most primary care physicians have minimal training with and exposure to this population, clear and informative communication becomes that much more vital. If President Obama is serious about his commitment to EHR, he will have to provide adequate financial assistance both to develop integrated solutions and to help providers adopt this very valuable health care tool.