We commend The Boston Globe for highlighting one of the state’s most pressing problems in health care: too many Massachusetts hospitals and physicians are still using paper medical records.
In a May 7th editorial, the Globe rightly pointed out that electronic medical records, “will prevent errors, improve diagnostic work, avoid duplication of tests and procedures, and simplify clinical studies.” The newspaper called on the 63 Massachusetts hospitals not using any computerized systems to make the change now.
“Electronic medical records would be the best medicine for taking care of medical errors,” Massachusetts medical malpractice lawyer Marc Breakstone said in response to the editorial.
A 2008 study by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and the New England Healthcare Institute found just 10 of the state’s 73 hospitals used a computerized system for doctors’ orders. More alarming was the study found 1 in every 10 patients at six community hospitals in the state suffered from serious medication mistakes.
According to the Institute of Medicine, 50,000 to 100,000 patients nationwide die annually of preventable medical errors.
In addition to offering stimulus-bill help, the federal government is threatening to reduce Medicare payments for doctors who fail to implement electronic medical records by 2015. A 2009 national survey by the New England Journal of Medicine showed that only 1.5 percent of hospitals and 4 percent of doctors’ practices have adopted comprehensive electronic systems.
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, we know firsthand electronic medical records will save lives. Massachusetts hospitals are doing the public they should be serving a great injustice every day they continue to make excuses for not going electronic.