In Transition to Digital Patient Records, Patience is a Virtue

Electronic Health Records have the potential to reshape the quality and cost of healthcare. In an Emergency Room situation, for example, your doctor’s ability to instantly review your electronic health records (EHRs) could be crucial to their ability to save your life. Better and more accurate information leads to better medical care and can reduce unnecessary or duplicative testing.

As Steve Lohr points out in his New York Times article (“The Lessons Thus Far From the Transition to Digital Patient Records,” 7/28/14), the successful transition from paper to EHRs will take time but will be well worth the wait. As more and more providers adopt EHR systems, the overall healthcare system benefits because the real power lays in our ability to interconnect EHRs so that a doctor has access to your medical information no matter where you are and whenever you may need it. We will not, however, see the full impact until adoption of EHRs reaches a critical mass, and these EHRs are fully networked with each other.

In New York, adopting a statewide system for sharing electronic health records (which was included in the New York State budget passed by Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature in March 2014) has been estimated to potentially save the state $200 million a year in the coming years. We have already seen concrete results that this is the right strategy. A study conducted in Rochester, where we have achieved a strong rate of adoption of EHRs and our hospitals and providers share electronic health records, showed hospital re-admission rates were reduced by 57% over just 6 months.

While digitizing patient health records is no easy job—and certainly will take time to make the switch—it is important to remember the bigger picture.

David H. Klein

David Klein is Special Advisor to the Medical Center CEO, Professor of Public Health Sciences, Executive Professor of Health Care Management, University of Rochester (Chair). Klein is also Board Chair of the New York e-Health Collaborative, the coordinator of the Statewide Health Information Network of New York (the SHIN-NY).