Until we are totally confident we know how to design and deploy EHRs in a manner that will substantially improve health care, why would we want to proliferate these expensive systems? The thinking is that EHR interoperability will solve health care's crisis. But ask yourself: Whenever you've received inadequate care, what was the root cause? Was it (1) because your doctor couldn't access a medical record that was in some other doctor's office? Was it (2) because your doctor did not have access to the clinical knowledge that would have led to accurate diagnosis and/or effective treatment? Or was it (3) because medical science, itself, just does not know enough?
Of those three causes for suboptimal healthcare, I believe the first one (lack of EHR interoperability) is actually the least impacting. For most clinical episodes, the treating physician is not truly handicapped by not being able to see what’s in some other physician’s record of your prior care. The second one seems to be considerably more instrumental. No physician can learn all she or he needs to learn, remember all that was learned, and apply it effectively during a brief clinical encounter. So we should clearly enable access to whatever is currently known by medical science, by providing computer-retrievable knowledge at the point of care. Not to do so is just plain foolish … or professionally arrogant.
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