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Digital DoctorsMost people have not heard of Surescripts, but they touch each of our lives. The company has a nationwide health information network connecting doctor’s offices, hospitals, pharmacists, and health plans. When your doctor e-prescribes a medication, Surescripts routes the prescription to your pharmacy.

A Surescripts’ Connected Care and the Patient Experience survey found, “Millions of people across the country are open to using technology for a variety of key healthcare needs, but the system is not yet living up to their expectations.” A further finding was current gaps in information sharing are making it difficult for Americans to manage their health. The findings are understatements. Poor information sharing can negatively impact patient safety and quality of care.

If you have signed up to join a patient portal at your hospital or one of your doctors, you know what the survey means. Two years ago, we had no portals (doorways) to our health records. Now we have more than one. Some Medicare patients see a dozen or so doctors, each potentially having their own portal. To make matters worse, the portals are not compatible. They each work differently and the data is not easily shared. Consumers want to collaborate with physicians about diagnoses and treatment plans, but they are finding it difficult to do because the data is scattered across different electronic health record (EHR) systems.

Compare EHRs to the Internet or credit cards. The Internet works exactly the same way everywhere in the world. Credit cards can be used anywhere in the world. EHRs cannot be easily exchanged between providers, sometimes even within the same building. If the 250 EHR software vendors don’t move quickly to develop compatible data exchange, the government will step in and mandate standards like the Internet and credit cards. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) may go a step further and reimburse only providers who use compatible EHRs, once they become available. The vendors should compete on price, function, and ease of use so their EHRs can become more user friendly and effective. People used to worry about security and privacy of EHRs. While these are important concerns which must be addressed, the survey shows the concern over having EHRs is being replaced about the concern of having incompatible and ineffective EHRs.

 Read much more about EHRs in Health Attitude.

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