May 20, 2007

EMR's...cool

The Economist writes:

The federal government is giving a push to EMRs, following the lead of the Veterans' Health Administration (VHA). Studies have shown that thanks in large part to its sophisticated national database, the VHA has fewer patient errors and better health outcomes than the health system at large, despite the fact that its patients tend to be older, poorer and sicker. George Bush wants a system of universal health-records by 2015. And Medicare, the government-run health scheme for pensioners, is shifting to a tiered reimbursement system in which it pays doctors more if they go electronic.

Employers are also keen on technology, since it promises to curb health-care costs and improve efficiency. Intel, BP, Wal-Mart and several other big companies got together last year to form Dossia, an independent, non-profit company that will develop an EMR system to give employees lifelong, portable medical histories. And over a hundred other firms including Dell, IBM and Microsoft now allow employees to manage their health affairs via WebMD, a big health-information website.

Wayne Gattinella, WebMD's boss, says the popularity of this corporate product persuaded his firm to develop a version for individual consumers, supported by “discreet” targeted ads for pills, devices or relevant consumer products. “The consumer will be the catalyst to drive doctors and community hospitals to adopt IT,” he says.

Intuit, known for its accounting software, is convinced the market is ready for health-care software too. But when it tested such a product last year, it found that users were frustrated at having to fill in so many forms and search for bills and records to which they did not have easy access. So it now plans to offer its software in conjunction with health insurers, so that payment data and other information can be filled in automatically.

Aetna, a big insurance firm, has taken a different path by acquiring ActiveHealth, a firm that provides EMRs for around 14.5m users and also scours those health records with decision-support software to spot signs of trouble (such as missed doctors' appointments or early warnings of obesity). Aetna plans to offer this software to its own customers...

Well, just add this to the list of things being accomplished by the failed/beseiged/dead-in-the-water/lame duck/not-conservative Bush administration.

EMR stands for electronic medical record. The real reason they are a big deal is that if you had your medical records in a standardized electronic form, and your doctor recommended treatment, you could get a second opinion just by sending an e-mail. And, more importantly, you could get BIDS for your treatment, from other providers, without them having to re-examine you. That should start to shake things up.

(Thanks to Orrin)

Posted by John Weidner at May 20, 2007 8:30 AM
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