Physicians, saddled with convoluted EHR systems that impede their productivity and intrude on patient care, can be forgiven for asking the same question about healthcare digitization. Already it has been a long ride. The answer to them is, “No. Not nearly. Not yet.”
Why aren’t we doing better at fulfilling the promise of healthcare digitization and realizing a return on the nation’s massive health IT investment? There are several parts to that answer. One relates to the government’s involvement. For the past eight years, everyone has focused on meeting government-imposed requirements. For many, of necessity, this was about meeting the letter of the law, not the spirit. This essentially killed innovation as R&D budgets and deployments focused on meeting the specific requirements of Meaningful Use rather than innovating to improve the cost/quality of healthcare.
Secondly, we have to realize that using computers in medicine is necessary but not sufficient to achieve transformation. We cannot expect to see major benefits from computerization if we simply use computers to do the same things we would have done without them.
In order to realize the full potential of healthcare digitization, the industry must begin to rethink how it operates, given that records now are nearly entirely digitized. Getting this right is going to take time, creativity and some missteps. Within five to 10 years, we will be there – but we certainly aren’t there yet.
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