U.S. Hospitals Slow to Adopt Electronic Medical Records

doctorlaptopOnly 9 percent of U.S. hospitals use electronic medical records, according to a new survey. The survey, published online by the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that most of the nation’s hospitals already use some sort of basic electronic system for tasks such as reporting lab results. However, it’s a far cry from the comprehensive, high-tech environment supported by the Obama and Bush administrations. These high-tech systems would include such features as electronic doctors’ notes and treatment options. Only 1.5 percent of hospitals have adopted this type of system.

Cost appears to be the biggest obstacle in making the switch. Monetary concerns were cited by 74 percent of hospitals. One expert quoted in the Wall Street Journal estimated that a midsize hospital might spend $10 million over several years switching to an electronic system. Federal incentives aimed at increasing the use of electronic systems would cover a majority of the costs, but hospitals would need to come up with those last few millions on their own. More than a third of survey respondents also cited opposition from physicians as a reason they haven’t adopted an electronic system; some doctors say that the systems act as distractions from patient care.  Proponents of electronic medical records have argued that the systems improve the quality and safety of care while eliminating unnecessary testing. The debate seems likely to rage on.

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