Bio & Life Sciences

Plans to Digitize Health Records Draw Skepticism

As the medical industry strives to integrate new technology to improve services and outcomes, venture capital funding for healthcare IT has tripled in the last three years, according to a story by WNYC’s Mary Harris. Now, the federal government is preparing to pump $29 million into efforts to digitize healthcare records, with Obamacare ready to penalize providers who don’t conform. But Ross Koppel, professor of sociology and medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, has doubts about just how efficient and cost-effective the transition to digitized record-keeping will be. Says Koppel: “The problem is that a lot of the software out there is really clunky, is not user friendly … and the structure of the market is such that the vendors of these programs are not as responsive to the needs of clinicians as they should be.” The high cost and protracted implementation time of digital record-keeping programs leave hospitals little flexibility to make improvements based on feedback, explains Koppel. One solution, he suggests, is for the government to push harder to enact data standards and oversight. Will unwieldy institutional structures ultimately make it more practical for individuals to keep their own medical records rather than entrusting the job to hospitals? Many in the so-called quantified self movement are already doing so.

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