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Electronic Medical Records

Recently a local hospital started touting their switch to electronic medical records. The idea is to improve efficiency, lower costs, etc. However, there's always the question of theory and practice, the design plan versus the as-built. This brought up the memory of a few examples where the practice didn't work out so well.

The first one was a hospital that for the first time in a hundred years had to turn away patients. They had a computer failure that affected their ability to access their electronic medical records. They became so backed up that they started diverting ambulances to other hospitals. The diversion wasn't terribly long and they still took walk-in patients. It is still the kind of thing that will make you think twice about your current infrastructure. I would hate to be the guy who had to explain what happened.

The other article was a mention of a Harvard study. The basic idea of the study was that there were no cost savings with electronic medical records. The idea is that in practice the costs outweigh any cost savings. The real benefit settles in on things like reducing medical errors. That of course still relies on the ability of an organization to implement a system. We all know how well large projects like that go, don't we?