Healthcare and Medical Insurance Costs
Electronic Medical Records or EMR technology has been available for several years now. Yet fewer then one-fifth of doctors and hospitals have adopted the technology. Which is unfortunate because EMR can not only improve patient care it can save insurance companies and healthcare providers millions of dollars, and provide a path to more affordable healthcare insurance for all Americans.
According to a recent study conducted by the US Department of health and Human Services a national Database of health information using EMR could save the healthcare industry 140 billion dollars annually in terms of improved care and reduced costs, and these savings could be passed on to the consumer, or be used to help bring affordable healthcare insurance to the still over 47 million Americans without medical insurance. Electronic Medical Records save money in a number of ways. Primarily EMR's go a long way to eliminating duplicate services and reducing or eliminating medical error. With a patient's entire medical history at his fingertips a doctor need not order expensive medical tests or diagnostic procedures that have already been performed. And with an EMR, a doctor has a total picture of patient's medications and can avoid making a mistake in prescribing drugs with negative interactions. Of course there is the intrinsic savings in time and paperwork hours for a physician and his staff that EMR's provide, and theoretically healthcare improves when a doctor can spend more time with each patient and less time having to worry about forms and insurance reimbursement paperwork. The Veterans Administration already employs a national electronic medical records system, and while it uses somewhat old technology it does prove quite effective in keeping the costs of services down and providing quality healthcare for veterans.
EMR's can also provide for more affordable healthcare insurance in other ways. One of the greatest cost overruns in the current system is the cost of the overuse of diagnostic tests. Doctors will order expensive tests like MRI's, CT Scans and PET Scans because they are safe and non-invasive, insurance companies do not like them because they are expensive. An effective national database of Electronic Medical Records could bring a compromise to both sides. In such a system healthcare providers would have access to data on millions of cases - demographically sorted but privacy protected. With such information they would be able to more readily determine if any such test would be beneficial to a given patient, by having access to information on millions of such patients. For example, the EMR's could show whether patients with herniated discs gain anything from MRIs, or if a whole-body CAT scan would really show anything of diagnostic value. The database could also show which sorts of patients benefit most from new drugs and procedures, and which would improve just as well on the traditional treatments. In this way the healthcare system could save billions by using expensive new technology instead of indiscriminately as we do now, with a more effective approach based on evidence.
In 2004 the Bush Administration mandated that all Americans have an Electronic Medical Record within 10 years, and that is starting to move forward. Some experts contend that if implemented, EMR may help all Americans have affordable healthcare insurance within the same period of time.