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Electronic Health Records: Not a Seamless Process, Part 2

Part of the bait extended by government officials to doctors to entice those physicians to vigorously participate in the transformation from paper medical records to digital patient records has been money.

And no small amount. Doctors who have transferred over to electronic health records and demonstrated “meaningful use” of such systems have reportedly received about $9 billion in federal funds from Medicare officials.

Along with that carrot, though, comes a stick, with physicians who fail to demonstrate meaningful use now potentially facing fines.

As noted by Politico, a national news group, those “angry doctors facing a punch in the wallet” are more than a bit piqued by that prospect, with many of them being highly critical of electronic health records in general.

In fact, Politico notes that they “are fighting mad,” in no small part because they have tried in vain to work in good faith with the EHR systems now commonplace across the country (please see our blog post dated January 19, 2014).

Reportedly, their efforts have often been frustrating and unavailing in the extreme, with “clunky, time-sucking software” not promoting the coordination of care or improved patient outcomes that have long been touted by EHR proponents.

Stories abound regarding incalcitrant vendors and substandard work product that make EHR interaction a very frustrating and discouraging experience for many doctors.

Things often take a long time. Software menus can be complex. Data can get lost, moved to wrong areas and rendered inaccessible to other care providers. Physicians overwhelmed with the computerized systems can make medical errors, with the systems themselves sometimes perpetuating mistakes.

Congress is pushing vendors for better software, and a congressional bill has been authored that seeks to stem the fines being handed out by Medicare officials to doctors not hitting the “meaningful use” threshold.

Politico calls 2015 a “critical year” for EHR technology, noting that if systems can’t be programmed to work better, “the program may be seen as largely a waste.”