Doctors slow to invest in system

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Electronic medical records could improve patient care and possibly save billions of dollars, yet many doctors aren’t investing in the technology because they may not reap the savings – insurers and the government will, researchers report.

It’s one of several pitfalls blamed for slowing adoption of computerized medicine in a collection of provocative, sometimes conflicting studies published Wednesday in the journal Health Affairs.

No more than a quarter of U.S. hospitals and 20 percent of physician offices have adopted electronic medical records, the RAND Corp. found. Usually, they’re hospital- or doctor-specific, not easily transferred and read by other health care providers.

The ultimate goal of electronic medical records is a nationwide network, allowing quick access to, say, the medical history of a patient lying unconscious in an emergency room far from home. Other benefits could include paperless prescriptions to cut drug errors and software linking patient records to care guidelines and automatic checkup reminders.

RAND researchers set up a statistical model to predict the possible savings from such health care improvements and from improved business efficiency, such as eliminating redundant care and shortening hospital stays, if 90 percent of hospitals and doctors ultimately adopted such a network.