There was aninteresting article in the New York Times on Friday that focused on the successful experience of the Marshfield Clinic, a large multi-specialty group practice, in developing and using an electronic medical records system.
In medicine, the computer is to memory what the X-ray machine is to vision — a technology that vastly surpasses human limitations. The benefits of a computer-helper, doctors say, become quickly evident in everyday practice.
Computers do not practice medicine. They are simply a tool. I’m old enough to have earned a thickening medical record, and my current internist doesn’t have all of the records from other cities – rather, the highlights or key summaries. I passed the age of 50 without a poke from my internist that I was due for screening tests. My dentist and ophthalmologist are set up to make sure that I’m called back for routine follow-up – services that represent good care, pay well, and have a demonstrable benefit to the patient. Why shouldn’t all primary care physicians have the same capabilities? Why should you have to thumb through a chart to locate information that you need for an efficient and effective consultation with the patient in front of you?
Computer systems remember everything. The value of the EHR systems is in the ability to sort through huge quantities of data, a capability for which the human mind has limited capability. For example, the system has enabled the Clinic to quickly identify patients who are due immunizations or preventive visits and studies and has boosted immunization rates to over 90%.
Information technology has been a powerful force behind the ability of many companies to expand and become more efficient. Companies such as Wal-Mart and