It is interesting to read the Glenn Laffel commentary on a Harvard Study about the use of EMRs in hospitals on The Health Care Blog. The most obvious outcome of the Harvard study leads you to the conclusion that EMRs will not improve quality of care in hospitals.
Is the future of our HealthCare system dependent upon large general hospitals? Many people see Hospitals as dangerous places. This study seems to confirm that thinking. The uniqueness of each patient coupled with the complexity involved in delivering care make mistakes inevitable. If your local Doctor's practice is a safer place because it is more contained with fewer human interactions then may be the future in controlling cost and quality in health care is in encouraging the migration of treatments from in patient towards being capable of being undertaken in local practices.
I think the study also points to the reality that patients do need to be actively engaged in their own care - or they need to have someone acting on their behalf. If an EMR enabled hospital increases the probability of errors in a course of treatment then an empowered patient really does need the resources of a sophisticated Personal Health Record that can evaluate treatments and drug regimes and confirm that they are not harmful to the patient.What did Ronald Reagan say "trust but verify." I think we have reached that point with our Health Care system. The relationship between a patient and their doctor is one largely of trust. We believe that our doctor is trying to give us the best care but so many other factors come in to play. When we go in to a hospital we put that faith in the hands of a massive team of people. The hand offs that occur create opportunities for error.
So let's trust the people that are caring for us but don't make that blind trust. We need to get engaged and use whatever tools we can get our hands on to help us confirm the recommendations that the health care system presents to us.
Studies like this just serve to further convince me that the empowered patient has to invest in their Personal Health Record and an ecosystem of applications that can help us understand our health and any conditions we may be managing. Seeing the pace of development and the less than spirited enthusiasm for implementation of EMRs I believe that the untethered PHR will outflank the EMR vendors and the empowered patient will become the integrator across the Health Care system by utilizing their PHR to share information with the different health care professionals they interact with.