As a nurse who worked with old-fashioned written charts, as well as electronic medical records, I much prefer the old-fashioned charts [Electronic Medical Records: Hazardous to Your Health? usnews.com]. If someone writes an important item in the old one, it will be there next time someone looks. The electronic files sometimes get lost, things drop off, or are written in the wrong place and never to be found. Many doctors I knew did not like to use electronic files, and demanded their history and physical be in written paper form, along with the doctor's orders and progress notes. If I wanted to learn what was wrong with a patient, I would always know the history and physical was available, thank goodness, along with orders, and progress notes. Nurse's notes would be a "checklist" and absolutely worthless. Any patient in the place had the same checklist, and almost all the checks were in the same places. I would be very concerned about passing medication using entirely electronic medical records and computer dispensed meds. I can't understand why they think it saves so much money. It makes staff go to computers instead of spending time with their patients.
Comment by Nancy of IN
Have you never had a friend or relative with an extended hospital stay? Nurses and doctors make so many entries that the paper files become so fat that the entries get lost. I haven't yet heard of anyone who did not suffer from a medical error because of misplaced or messed up records on paper. If there's even a chance of reducing that, we need to try it. Maybe the real question is: what about the countries with better health statistics than ours, Japan, Denmark, etc. Besides universal healthcare, do they also have better record keeping?
Comment by Edwin of MA
My concerns are human error and the privacy of patients. I feel it is an invasion of privacy to have a central repository of one's medical records available to employers, insurance companies, and anyone who has access or who gains access to these records. Criminal records are protected by the police departments, personal medical records need the same privacy on a need-to-know basis.
Comment by Jo of WA
You might change your mind if you are ever confronted with dealing with the healthcare system when you or someone close to you is seriously ill. Going from specialist to specialist, at each appointment making sure all of them have the latest test results; making sure all know what the other is doing, thinking, and ordering. It is a nightmare! It is a full-time job. And that is the case even if all these specialists/diagnostic areas are located in the same facility!
Comment by Sue of IL
With all the valid concerns about health IT in hospitals and the $30 billion necessary to digitize individuals' health histories and their medical care, it's no surprise that many hospitals are slow to step up to the plate. With many hospitals suffering financial duress (noninsured patients, nonpaying patients, demand for expensive new technology), how are hospitals supposed to come up with the $20 million-$100 million to purchase these systems? While health IT may in fact help prevent medical errors in hospitals, it seems to me that energy could be focused on ways to decrease the drastic nursing shortage so we could have enough qualified nurses to safely staff U.S. hospitals. Would that not dramatically reduce medical errors in hospitals? I wonder if we are focusing on computerized technology as the only way to increase efficiency and efficacy and at the same time ignoring the importance of the human being (i.e., the nurse). Computerized health records seem to have their own share of potential problems. Why not come up with ways to increase the appeal of the nursing profession in hospitals? Nurses are who we need to bolster and support as they are the hospitalized patients' life line as well as one of the direct lines to patient safety.
Comment by Martine Ehrenclou of CA