Electronic Medical Records Domino

There are a few themes that I continually come back to as I post. One of which is Health Care and particularly innovation in Health Care. I feel that is the second wave of real economic growth for the US over the next 5 to 15 years. It will follow an energy revolution (not sure if the US will lead this one though). So that brings me to the topic of this post – EMRs or Electronic Medical Records.

The NY Times is running an article by Steve Lohr called Most Doctors Aren’t Using Electronic Health Records. It highlights the fact that the adoption of this record keeping method is slow. Most doctor offices still use paper records and file cabinets with patient folders in them. This is over 10 years after the internet went mainstream. Until this switch happens Health Care won’t take the next leap. It is a major domino. Once this domino falls the cost associations will decrease and efficiencies will increase and the snowball effect will occur.

There are three immediate obstacles. First is the cost of the equipment, support, and training. The article mentioned above goes into this. The second is HIPAA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act which was enacted in 1996 (the same time as the internet getting launched). HIPAA was intended to speed up the digital transformation in the Health Care industry and in a way it has for the insurance side of it. That is important. But the confusion of the privacy component of the act has shaped behavior towards erring on the side of extreme data protection. Thirdly is the lack of standards. Standards need defining for the technology, the data, and the processes. This is where either State or the Federal government can contribute to speeding this up.

Companies like Microsoft and Google are hoping to become the standard. What is interesting to me is the business models. When I first became aware of EMRs I instantly knew that a large company would need to get involved to overcome the economies of scale and support. But that hasn’t happened yet. But what might happen is instead of the paradigm changing from a centralized recording at the doctor office to decentralized and the patient recording the information and taking it to the different doctors. It could be a hybrid of the two as well.

Either way, once this is overcome the Health Care industry will rapidly innovate. This efficiency will bleed over into other areas of Health Care, such as new imaging technology or preventative care processes and Dr/Patient communication.


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