Despite the overflow of evidence suggesting the benefits of electronic health records, some remain skeptical about adopting them. This could get in the way of developing a robust and modern healthcare system that is capable of improving patient outcomes while increasing efficiency and lowering costs.
For example, a group of state lawmakers in Montana recently passed a bill that would bar the state's Department of Public Health and Human Services from receiving incentive payments from the government that are intended to help ease the cost of adopting electronic health records systems for doctors.
According to CMIO Magazine, the state's physicians stand to receive up to $35 million in federal funds under the incentive program, but the new law would block this. Lawmakers have said that electronic health records are an untested technology.
However, this statement is rather far from the truth, as pointed out by Montana's own governor. According to the news source, he asked the state legislature to reconsider its new law. He said that the funds will go a long way toward helping the state build a modern healthcare system and would result in the creation of many well-paying jobs.
At this point, Montana is the only state to reject funding from the electronic health records incentive program.
The notion that electronic health records are an unproven technology is simply inaccurate. Dating back to the early parts of last decades, studies have shown that they have the power to reduce costs and improve patient outcomes.
For example, a 2005 study in the journal Health Affairs estimated that the technology could eventually save the U.S. healthcare system up to $81 billion per year. The researchers noted that this is in addition to the benefits of improved health through better disease management abilities.
That same study found that other healthcare technology, such as computerized order entry, can lead to a drastic reduction in the number of medical errors that occur. These accidents cost the healthcare system millions of dollars each and result in poorer health among patients. Electronic health records are likely to limit this.
The decision by the Montana legislators indicate that government officials still need to convince some people about the benefits of electronic health records. However, a review of available evidence should be all that is required to attract the remaining holdouts.