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[Do] eHRs Fail to Improve Healthcare Quality?

I told you so … wow! That felt really, really good!

By D. Kellus Pruitt DDS 

If you haven’t been following the bad news for electronic health records that has broken in the popular media in the last few days, you may be unaware of recent studies that are about as welcome in Washington DC as Wikileaks revelations of diplomatic farts – but much more serious. Healthcare reform itself is in the balance, and President Obama’s credibility with mandates is already shot.

Records will show that a few politically-incorrect troublemakers knew all along that EHRs will fail to save money or improve the quality of healthcare – ever – unless doctors and patients are involved in their development. This troublemaker warned dentists 5 years ago about how HIT stakeholder and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich deceived naïve ADA Delegates about benefits of eHRs to dental patients. In turn, 3 years later, the ADA’s HIT stakeholder, Dr. Robert Ahlstrom, deceived Bush’s HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt with biased, self-serving testimony he gave to the NCVHS. (See “Dr. Robert H. Ahlstrom’s controversial HIPAA testimony” that I posted in 2008.)

http://community.pennwelldentalgroup.com/forum/topics/dr-robert-h-ahlstroms

Do you still not agree that long ago, I told you so?

At a time when President Obama’s healthcare reform is teetering between the Houses, just wait until lawmakers catch the news I’m bringing to you hours, days or even weeks ahead of Fox News: Transparency just caused a huge chunk of anticipated funding for reform to evaporate like American’s property values. After billions of stimulus dollars have been gleefully spent benefiting influential healthcare stakeholders rather than principals, the bi-partisan feel-good digital fantasy is bankrupt. Pop goes the bubble.

Although there have been minor news reports of growing disappointment in eHRs for years, the results of two recent studies by Public Library of Sciences (PLoS) and Stanford clearly expose the lack of value of eHRs for Americans. We’ve been had.

The WSJ 

On January 21, the Wall Street Journal posted an article titled, “Study Looks For, Can’t Find Much Evidence of E-Health’s Benefits,” by Katherine Hobson.

http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2011/01/21/study-looks-for-cant-find-much-evidence-of-e-healths-benefits/

Hobson writes: “With the U.S. and the U.K. heading full steam towards electronic medical records and other health IT applications, how much evidence is there that they improve care?

Not a whole lot, according to a review of existing research on the topic published this week by PLoS Medicine. While governments and other proponents are claiming that digitizing health records can save lives and increase efficiency, the review’s ‘key conclusion is that these claims need to be scrutinized before people invest quite large sums of money in these technologies,’ Aziz Sheikh, lead author of the study and a professor of primary care research and development at the Center for Population Health Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, tells the Health Blog.’”

US News & World Report

And; only hours ago, US News & World Report posted a story titled “Electronic Record-Keeping Alone May Not Boost Health Care.” (no byline).

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/managing-your-healthcare/policy/articles/2011/01/25/electronic-record-keeping-alone-may-not-boost-health-care

“Electronic health records have so far done little to improve the quality of health care in the United States, a new study states.

Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine analyzed data on use of electronic records from 2005 through 2007. The data came from a nationwide physician survey that encompassed nearly 250,000 outpatient visits.”

The ADA 

So how does the truth about eHRs affect ADA leadership’s stubborn push for paperless practices in dentistry? Well, if as a trusting ADA member, you haven’t already swallowed the propaganda, now wouldn’t be a good time to convert to paperless.

eDRs

Though my unpopular but accurate statements about eDRs eventually got me in secret trouble with vetted, anonymous Texas Dental Association officials, I predicted this week’s bad news years ago on the TDA online forum. Unfortunately, my warnings to other TDA members about the ADA’s biggest blunder in history were censored by the TDA Executive Director without warning or explanation. Why? She isn’t accountable to anyone and “Image is everything.” (ADA/IDM slogan).

Just how difficult can it be to recognize that eHRs are inefficient in dental practices for simple, common sense reasons? First of all, dental records which involve prevention and treatment of disease in the lower third of the face rarely include laboratory test results like medical records which concern the whole body. In addition, dentists maintain tenfold fewer thin patient charts than physicians’ thick ones. So if the value of eHRs are questionable for hospital care involving millions of charts, I think dentists are safe to ignore Presidential eHR mandates. The bottleneck in dental offices isn’t the front desk, it’s the dentist … or at least it should be. As for thumbing your nose at a Presidential mandate, I wouldn’t get too concerned. Obama also mandated that the prison at Guantanamo Bay was to be closed over a year ago. It didn’t happen, and nobody went to jail.

Unfunded Mandates 

Unfunded mandates just don’t carry the respect they once did when they were less common and actually made sense. Considering the absurdity of eHRs in dentistry, worse things could happen for trusting, clueless Americans.

Those who represent our concerns in government probably don’t yet realize that in the last four days, the price of healthcare reform skyrocketed even further out of reach, and we simply cannot borrow any more money from our grandchildren just to throw it away on expensive hi-tech crap. As for myself, I’m sending this ME-P to my national and state representatives: Cornyn, Hutchison, Barton, Burgess, Harris, Davis, Patrick and Veasey, I hope you will contact your representatives as well. The Internet makes it so easy these days to educate those who would otherwise determine our future based on deception from healthcare stakeholders.

Assessment 

I publicly challenge Dr. Robert Ahlstrom, who is currently a member of the ADA Council on Dental Practice and chair of the Members Advisory Group to an Internet discussion concerning electronic health records in dentistry. It’s the same unanswered challenge I issued to the influential dentist over 3 years ago: I still say electronic dental records are an expensive hobby paid for by dental patients in higher fees, and they do nothing to improve patient care. What do you have to say about that, Dr. Robert Ahlstrom? You know you’re going to have to face me again and again, so please don’t disappoint ADA members by continuing to hide. It makes the whole ADA look cowardly.

Conclusion

Always remember: I told you so, Dr. Robert Ahlstrom. And so, your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. How do you select an eMR consultant? Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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