Less than 8% of U.S. hospitals have electronic medical record (EMR) systems in at least one clinical unit, and only 1.5% have a comprehensive system in all of their units, according to a March 25 report on the New England Journal of Medicine's Web site. The news isn't all bad: One hospitalist and information technology (IT) expert views this study as an opportunity for HM to push for EMR programs in their institutions.
Dirk Stanley, MD, MPH, a hospitalist and chief medical informatics officer at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Mass., says the environment for EMR initiatives is especially ripe given the government’s recent commitment of nearly $20 billion in stimulus funding for health IT implementation over the next six years.
The stimulus financing won't be available until fiscal 2011, but Dr. Stanley says the timeline gives hospitalists time to negotiate an EMR system that could work across their institutions. He adds that keeping lines of communication open between specialists is just as important as maintaining a productive dialogue between physicians and the staff that implement the software programs.
"Every doctor wants their information their way," Dr. Stanley says. "And this is a really difficult reflex for a lot of doctors. When you enter these political negotiations, you have to try to get doctors to understand that perfection on a small scale sometimes results in big problems on the large scale. If everybody is willing to compromise just a little bit, you can find a happy medium. As a hospitalist, it puts you in a nice political middle ground."