An acquaintance of mine who, like me, has inflammatory bowel disease, received a call recently from her local hospital informing her they had lost her MRI images. They found them, but she is concerned they will have to retake them anyway because at this point her images are no longer current enough for the doctor to make an informed treatment decision.
This is a prime example of why all hospitals should use electronic health records (EHRs). At a time when health IT (HIT) companies are cropping up faster than Starbucks coffee shops, and the federal government is handing out incentive funds to those hospitals who use electronic records, there is truly no excuse for not having an EHR system in place.
Asking patients to retake an MRI simply because they can’t keep their records together is not only inconvenient for the patient but extremely inefficient for the hospital. Assuming this sort of thing happens regularly, these are dollars the hospital is flushing away that could be invested in an EHR system.
Sure, there are initial costs involved with installing a reliable EHR system, but many of these costs are reimbursable under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and most HIT companies are eager to guide clients through the meaningful use requirements. It makes the company look good and it recovers critical funds for the hospitals to put to other uses, like saving lives.
Just as one example, we recently reported in Medical Device Daily that a financially-strapped 319-bed county hospital in California went live on Medsphere Systems’ OpenVista open source EHR. That hospital is expected, according to Medsphere, to receive “substantially more” in federal reimbursement than the five-year costs to acquire the system. It makes sense not only from a patient care standpoint but from a financial perspective also.
Medsphere President/CEO Irv Lichtenwald called the move a compelling example of responsible decision-making, and I agree. “Especially in these troubled economic times, public hospitals can still improve care without making financial matters worse for local government,” Lichtenwald said.
And of course Medsphere is not alone in the HIT market, the firm has plenty of competitors, all more than happy to help private and public hospitals alike experience similar financial gains by implementing these invaluable electronic records systems.