The federal goal is for most Americans to have their medical information in electronic format by 2014, and for all prescriptions to be written electronically four years before that.Are physicians moving towards those goals? According to the most recent annual study done by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, almost one in four doctors use partial or full electronic systems in their offices; that number is up 31 percent from the same survey done in 2001. (The study excludes radiology, anesthesiology and pathology.) These connected doctors recognize the benefits of an interoperable system of healthcare information sharing; when everyone is on the same electronic page, there is less probability of error. The Department of Health and Human Services has estimated that one of seven primary care visits is affected by missing medical information. And medical errors are caused by “M” words: miscommunication and missed communication between physicians, misinformation in the record, mishandling of information, mislabeled specimens, and misfiled or missing data.
Every form of record keeping has its pitfalls, but it seems absurd that in 2006 I would still be harping about installing digital systems.