Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What are EMRs? And why are they abuzz?

EMRs refer to Electronic Medical Records. The idea is that the entire medical history of the patient, and any pertinent information will become available to doctors, insurance companies, researchers, and more importantly patients. These records can then be effectively used in conjunction with Information Technology tools to manipulate, transfer and do other things to help you get speedy treatment.

Of course each beneficiary of the EMRization of patient data views it to their own advantage.

- Researchers obviously would like the idea of being able to cull large amounts of data on the disease type, its spread, the patient demographics that go along with it, the treatment offered, the success rates and so on and so forth.

- Doctors view this as a tool to keep track of their patients, to be able to do some of their own research, to be able to understand how they are perfroming and so on.

- Various governments view this as an opportunity to formulate policies, track grants and funds, hospital data, disease spread among various other aspects.

- Insurance companies view this is a grand opportunity to manage data, since they are the ones that actually carry the burden of the data.

The above are only examples of portions of perceptions of the data by these large groups. We also have health activists, economists, generalists, religious activists, lawyers and many more type of people, looking to access the data, to the extent it is made available to them, and use it to their own advantage.

This complexity is similar to the description of an elephant provided by 11 blind people.

Problems with EMRs include - bad technology, improper collection and distribution designs, lack of training and understanding in how to use them, lack of support from various arms of health care management and providers and so on.

So watch out for the discussions surrounding EMRs to emerge from conferences, government deliberations, insurance companies, doctors, hospitals, lawsuits, and of course, the media!

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