Universal use of electronic record-keeping is seen by its advocates as a way of improving the quality of medical care, increasing efficiency for both patient and provider and keeping overall health costs down.
A study in the online edition of the journal Health Affairs finds, however, that only about one-fourth of U.S. doctors use computerized record-keeping, fewer than 10 percent use the best available technology and most solo or small practices don’t use it at all.
The pros and cons are neatly summed up in today’s Washington Post:
Advocates, including the pharmaceutical and technology industries, argue that standardized electronic records that can be shared among care providers would improve patient care, reduce errors, curb unnecessary tests and cut paperwork. They also would ensure that patients who see different specialists, switch doctors or move frequently would not have to repeatedly recite their medical history.
But the concept is controversial among many privacy advocates, who fear that sensitive personal information could be accidentally compromised or exploited by hackers, companies or the government.
Of course, privacy is important, especially if its invasion leads to unfair hiring or insurance practices. But if you’re dead because of errors that could have been prevented by e-medicine, you can treasure your privacy for a long time. Very long, actually.