Monday, December 31, 2007

NHS progress on Electronic Medical Records

The NHS in U.K. continues on its path toward an electronic data base for medical records. In theory, this endeavor (or, endeavour?) is expected to result in improved quality of care and lower costs. This theory is also widely touted by health care observers in the U.S.

The poll reported in this article measures disagreement among British doctors whether the theory can be implemented satisfactorily. The article reports that, among doctors polled, “more than two thirds (70 per cent) agree that such records will improve patient care”. [i.e., agree with the theory] but, at the same time, doctors polled are almost evenly split “whether the benefits of electronic patient records will outweigh the risks.” [i.e., have doubts about how it will work in real life].

As with all theory, the true test is whether it works in real life. No better way to tell than to try it out. And - maybe - the best place to try it out is somewhere else not here.

Meanwhile, the NHS has lost medical data on millions of families; nine separate NHS trusts have lost patient data. In addition, the system development is reportedly years behind schedule. Understandably confidence in the security of patients’ records is mixed at best among doctors – and low with the public.

I think we should all root for the system to work and at the same time not hold high hopes until or unless positive, real-life experience emerges. Definitely worth watching.

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