Now listen to part of a lecture on the topic you just read about.
The benefits claimed for electronic medical records are actually very uncertain.
First, the cost savings are unlikely to be as significant as the reading suggests.
For example, there probably won’t be any savings related to record storage.
You see, doctors who adopt electronic records usually don’t throw out or discontinue the paper records.
They keep the paper records as an emergency backup, or because the paper originals with signatures are needed for legal reasons.
So, as a result, most doctors who adopt electronic record keeping still have to pay storage costs associated with paper-based record keeping.
Second, electronic medical records cannot eliminate the possibility of errors caused by poor handwriting or by mistakes in the transcription of data.
That’s because most doctors, including those who’ve adopted electronic record keeping, still use pen and paper while examining patients.
They take notes and write prescriptions by hand.
It’s usually the office staff of a doctor who enter this information at a later time from the handwritten documents into electronic systems.
So, poor handwriting can still lead to errors in the records, since the staff members have to interpret what the doctor has written.
Third—medical research would not necessarily benefit from electronic record keeping.
Researchers will still find it difficult to access and use medical information.
That’s because access to all medical information is subject to strict privacy laws in the United States.
Privacy laws exist to allow patients to keep their medical information private if they wish to.
As a consequence, researchers who want to collect data from electronic medical records have to follow strict and complicated procedures and obtain many permissions along the way, including permissions from the patients.
And often such permissions are not granted.
For example, patients can block the use of their medical records for any purpose other than their own medical treatment.