Pros and cons of electronic health records

Friday - 8/27/2010, 2:11pm EDT

Dr. John Loonsk, Chief Medical Officer, CGI Federal

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By Olivia Branco
Internet Editor
Federal News Radio

You have a primary care physician that you see on a regular basis. You get sick, and you might have to see another doctor in the practice. The new doctor looks at your chart but can he understand everything written down? Note-taking styles vary from person to person, will your new doctor know where to look for some information? It's partially because of this example that electronic health records are gaining popularity.

Dr. John Loonsk, chief medical officer at CGI Federal, joined In Depth with Francis Rose to talk about when we might see electronic health records. Loonsk says while eventually the electronic way would be beneficial, the change also causes problems and red flags for some physicians.

"To this point, (physicians) have not embraced (electronic health records). They like technology, but the health records, in terms of managing the patient record have not really caught on in a big way."

Loonsk says only around 16% of physician providers currently use an electronic form of keeping records, and a significantly smaller number use them for a majority of their practice.

One of the reasons physicians are not quick to change is due to the disruption it would cause in their routines.

"The technology has not been too physician friendly. The way physicians like to move is from room to room and the technology usually sits in a room."

Loonsk says technology such as handheld pad devices are helpful, but not perfect.

"The data is very sensitive and they need to be secure and protected and the patients trust is involved. There are a lot of things at stake."

Money is also an issue in getting electronic health records implemented quickly.

"When the administration was thinking about health reform there was a recognition that you needed to move forward with electronic health record as a platform to do some of the things of improving quality of health care and also trying to reduce some of the cost of health care to move forward wit that agenda."

Loonsk says the stimulus included as much as $36 billion to move forward with the project however given the sheer number of hospitals and physicians, the money available to each individual is not that great.

"When you spread that across all the hospitals and providers across the country it starts to look smaller and smaller. When you think about implementing an electronic heath record in a practice you also think about ongoing costs not just a one-time cost so those are some of the aspects that make it a little less attractive from a physicians standpoint."

"I think in the end, what will make this compelling is when health insurance reform and health payment reform start to really put pressure on provider organizations to accept some of the risk for the cost of care and for managing care."