Few Hospitals Embracing Electronic Health Record Systems

Researchers say cost, doctors' reluctance to change are main barriers to adoption

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Blumenthal served as an advisor to the Obama campaign; in mid-April Blumenthal takes up his new job in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

But two other researchers believe there's a long way to go in lowering the cost of implementing electronic medical record systems while also making them more flexible.

Current electronic record systems are monolithic, and they either fit the practice well ort hey don't, said Dr. Isaac S. Kohane, a professor of pediatrics and medicine at Harvard Medical School, co-director of the school's Center for Biomedical Informatics, and co-author of an accompanying journal article. If the system doesn't fit, "you are engaged in a costly customization process," he said.

Kohane and his co-author Dr. Kenneth Mandl, an associate professor at Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, contend that using a platform of modular programs that can be made available through the federal government would allow hospitals to pick and choose the applications that best suit them, much like people now select the options they want from Google, Facebook and other Web sites.

"What we have is an opportunity to take a rational approach to what the characteristics are of a national system that would allow a standardized method of substitutable applications to access a core set of data to drive improvements in health care," Mandl said.

In addition, these applications should be less expensive than current systems, Kohane said.

More information

For more information on electronic medical records, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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