Tag Archives: electronic medical records

Electronic medical records:

The Push and the Pull

Increasing safety and efficiency in medicine can only lead to an increase in health care quality, right? Some might not agree, especially when it comes to the implementation of electronic medical records (EMRs). There is a federal effort to ensure all medical records are in digital format by 2014, and supporters of EMR technology laud their effectiveness at minimizing medical errors, keeping records safe, facilitating information portability, and increasing cost-efficiency overall (The HWN Team, 2009; Preidt, 2009). Unfortunately, many are skeptical of the cost, security, and utility of such systems (Brown, 2008; The HWN Team, 2009; Preidt, 2009; Terry, 2009). These concerns (and others) are dramatically slowing the pace of EMR adoption, especially in smaller private practices where cost is a significant issue (Ford, Menachemi, Peterson, & Huerta, 2009).

Does EMR adoption actually increase safety? As Edmund, Ramaiah, and Gulla (2009) point out, a working computer terminal is required in order to read the EMR. If the computer system fails, there is no longer access to the medical record. This could be detrimental in a number of cases, especially when considering emergency medicine. Edmund, Ramaiah, and Gulla also describe how difficult it can be to maintain such a system. With this in mind, it is plain that as the system ages there will be more frequent outages and, therefore, more opportunity for untoward effects. Further, recent research shows how EMRs enforce pay-for-performance schemes that many U.S. physicians resent. McDonald and Roland (2009) demonstrate that physicians in California would rather disenroll patients who are noncompliant when reimbursed under pay-for-performance models enforced by the EMR software. Declining to treat patients who express their personal responsibility and choice in their own medical treatment cannot improve the effectiveness of safety in the care that they receive.

There needs to be a middle ground. Baldwin (2009) offers some great real world examples of how some hospitals and practices use hybrid systems to ensure effectiveness and quality while enjoying the benefits of digital records. According to Baldwin, there are many concerns to account for when considering a move from an all paper charting system to an all digital system. Many times, these concerns cannot be allayed and concessions between the two systems must be made. Brown (2008) suggests providing a solid education to the front-line staff regarding EMR implementation, and hence, obtaining their ‘buy in’ to the process to create a smoother transition to implementation. However, this does not address the safety concerns. Baldwin’s advice to analyze which processes should be computerized allows a solid business approach to EMR implementation, allowing some processes to remain paper-based if it makes sense to do so.


Baldwin, G. (2009). Straddling two worlds. Health Data Management, 17(8), 17-22.

Brown, H. (2008, April). View from the frontline: Does IT make patient care worse? He@lth Information on the Internet, 62(1), 9.

Edmund, L. C. S., Ramaiah, C. K., & Gulla, S. P. (2009, November). Electronic medical records management systems: an overview. Journal of Library & Information Technology, 29(6), 3-12.

Ford, E. W., Menachemi, N., Peterson, L. T., & Huerta, T. R. (2009). Resistance is futile: But it is slowing the pace of EHR adoption nonetheless. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 16, 274-281. doi:10.1197/jamia.M3042

The HWN Team. (2009, March). Electronic medical records: the pros and cons. Health Worldnet. Retrieved from http://healthworldnet.com/HeadsOrTails/electronic-medical-records-the-pros-and-cons/?C=6238

McDonald, R. & Roland, M. (2009, March). Pay for performance in primary care in England and California: Comparison of unintended consequences. Annals of Family Medicine, 7(2), 121-127. doi:10.1370/afm.946

Preidt, R. (2009, December 16). Pros and cons of electronic medical records weighed. Business Week. Retrieved from http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/634091.html

Terry, N. P. (2009). Personal health records: Directing more costs and risks to consumers? Drexel Law Review, 1(2), 216-260.

Scrutinizing the Literature of EMR

 As I scrutinize Dimitropoulos and Rizk (2009) for possible inclusion in a literature review for my research, I find it both promising and troubling. The article appears to be pertinent to my research question of how various laws and practices might adversely affect shared access of electronic health records; however, it is important to understand if this article is a documentation of primary research or a review of existing research, and as I describe below, this is unclear. This lack of clarity obscures other facets of the article that important to a researcher. These are also described below.

Initially, the work of Dimitropoulos and Rizk appears to be pertinent to my research based on the title and the publication in which it appears. Health Affairs is a respected journal within the realm of public health research, practice, and instruction, and it is ranked seventh of all health policy and service journals by Journal Ranking (http://www.journal-ranking.com). Publication within Health Affairs does not degrade the reputation of the authors and serves only to promote their work to their peers. As my research is within the realm of public health, Health Affairs is an obvious avenue to pursue for relevant work, and as this article by Dimitropoulos and Rizk appears to reflect a specific focus on the relationship between privacy laws and the ability, or lack thereof, to share health information, it appears to have relevance.

According to the abstract, Dimitropoulos and Rizk (2009) examine how variations is state (and, territorial) privacy laws might inhibit sharing health information via an central exchange, or repository. Though it would seem plausible for Dimitropoulos and Rizk to conduct their own research, the abstract seems to imply that they are merely reporting on the findings of a committee charged with examining such irregularities in privacy laws amongst the states and territories, presumably, of Canada. After reading the report, though, I find a disconnect between the abstract and the article. In the abstract, it appears more as if the authors are detached reporters, but within the body of the article, it seems as though they appear to take ownership of the primary research. This is confusing as it was plainly stated that the research was conducted by a large consortium of state officials: “the project initially engaged organizations in thirty-four … and later … forty-two jurisdictions. This collaborative work is commonly referred to as the Health Information Security and Privacy Collaboration (HISPC)” (p. 429).

This report is confusing to read as the perspective shifts frequently between first- and third-person. Additionally, the authors describe opinions formed and emotions felt during the primary research (opinions and emotions that only the primary researchers could know), yet it is unclear if these were transmitted through other writing or if the authors formed and felt these themselves. It is unclear whether the authors, Dimitropoulos and Rizk (2009), were participating researchers or merely reporters.

Both authors are noted to work for RTI International’s Survey Research Division, yet this corporation is not credited with any of the original research (Dimitropoulos & Rizk, 2009). I would have to conduct further research into the authors, their employer, and the project, itself, in order to make a final determination of the credibility of this article. This research would, hopefully, give the authors’ words better context, also. Complicating this is the absence of clearly delineated references, although a few appear within the Notes section that appear to be worth investigating.

Dimitropoulos and Rizk (2009) describe an effort to create a cohesive environment that will enhance the ability to share health information throughout a number of jurisdictions. As such, there is no scientific inquiry and it follows that adherence to the scientific method would be inappropriate. Again, however, it is unclear if this research is original or not.

In closing, it appears that Dimitropoulos and Rizk (2009) are credible in their writing; however, as each article must be able to stand on its own, and the article is lacking in form and perspective, I question the origination, application, and utility of this article, at least as it pertains to my original research question. Privacy in computing has been a major concern in the past two decades (Johnson, 2004). I feel that I could find more pertinent literature by expanding my search beyond this article.


Dimitropoulos, L. & Rizk, S. (2009).A state-based approach to privacy and security for interoperable health information exchange.Health Affairs, 28(2), 428-434. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.28.2.428

Johnson, D. G. (2004). Computer ethics. In L. Floridi (Ed.), The Blackwell guide to the philosophy of computing and information (pp. 65-75). Malden, MA: Blackwell.