No More Excuses

Aug. 27, 2009

I’m not buying the argument that computerizing health records is too expensive. Not for group practices. Not for hospitals. Even without the federal financial incentives contained in the health reform effort of the Obama administration, there seems to be little reason for any healthcare organization to resist computerizing its records.

The current inertia that surrounds the implementation of such technology is wrongly blamed on costs. Even the argument that “We’re waiting to find out what ‘meaningful use’ means” is only double talk for “We don’t want to spend the money.”

I’m not buying the argument that computerizing health records is too expensive. Not for group practices. Not for hospitals. Even without the federal financial incentives contained in the health reform effort of the Obama administration, there seems to be little reason for any healthcare organization to resist computerizing its records.

The current inertia that surrounds the implementation of such technology is wrongly blamed on costs. Even the argument that “We’re waiting to find out what ‘meaningful use’ means” is only double talk for “We don’t want to spend the money.”

Such attitudes beg the question of why healthcare organizations are so far behind the rest of the business world in terms of computerization? This resistance to change technologically is wrong-headed, misguided, and, from a business perspective, detrimental to conducting business in a productive manner.

Technology is known to be the driving force behind the United States’ continuing improvements in worker productivity. Why should healthcare be any different? Take the printing industry, for example. Technology adoption has allowed companies to accomplish more with fewer people, provide better outcomes (publications and Web sites) and reduce the time needed to publish a magazine or newspaper. Our products are better than they were 30 years ago, we are able to take on new important tasks – helping to expand our businesses.

The investment wasn’t cheap, by any means. And it is an ongoing
investment. The returns, however, have been significant.

Yet, many of those in healthcare, in fact the majority, are still behind the times regarding technology improvements.

“Today, we use the same technology for recording healthcare information as Hippocrates used,” says David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health information technology. “It defies logic that we will be able to get the best out of health information with sheaths of paper flying around by snail mail.”

While Blumenthal may be overstating the obvious, the message is clear. Many in the healthcare field are way behind their peers in other industries, yet they continue to claim paper-based systems are just fine, and changing over to computer-based health records is not necessary or too expensive. If that “reasoning” had been pervasive in other industries, the productivity improvements U.S. businesses have achieved over the past three decades would not have occurred.

The time has come for healthcare practitioners and organizations to overcome their fears and objections of computerizing their records.
The benefits, not only in terms of lowered costs but also better outcomes, are clear.

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