On the Brian Williams 6:00 pm news last night was a segment on the deployment of medical services in Haiti by various relief organizations. Special emphasis was given to how quickly and effectively the Israeli military was able to set up a fully functional field hospital on the island. Unlike some of the first responders, the Israelis are equipped to photograph patients’ faces as the first step to starting an electronic medical record (EMR) on each victim. Very smart. Very efficient. This is how it should be done.
My first thriller, Deadly Errors, deals with the multiple advantages of EMRs over the traditional pen and paper charts most of us are used to seeing. In April 2004, President Bush issued executive order 13335, which established a new executive position charged with developing a strategic plan and incentives for adopting EMRs. In March of this year President Obama convened a health-care summit in Washington to identify programs that would improve quality and stop the growth of burgeoning costs. He stated that his policies would be based on rigorous scientific evidence of benefit. His leading proposal was the national adoption of electronic medical records -- a computer-based system that would contain every patient's clinical history, laboratory results, and treatments. In spite of all the press on the benefits of EMRs, it appears the transition from paper to printed circuits continues to be slower than it should be. One factor is the cost of this overhaul. It is expensive, and any real economic gain from doing it will be slow and difficult to measure. Yet the segment on NBC news showed some very clear benefits in a very specific situation.