Newt Gingrich Endorses EMRs - InformationWeek

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6/18/2010
10:20 AM
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Newt Gingrich Endorses EMRs

However, despite years of hype around electronic medical records, a poll indicates that actual adoption rate and patient enthusiasm remain low.

This week's health IT news brought both an air of optimism and a sobering outlook on electronic medical record (EMR) adoption.

On Tuesday, Newt Gingrich threw his support behind EMRs, describing the technology as "a system which lowers the total cost to a point where three years from now doctors are going to say to each other 'you'd be irrational not to be doing this.'"

Speaking in Washington D.C. at the launch of GE Healthcare's Centricity Advance, a Software as a Service (SaaS) EMR solution for small physician practices, Gingrich, who is founder of the Center for Health Transformation and former Speaker of the House, said the healthcare industry's adoption of EMRs is now at "the breaking point." He also said that as tough economic times continue, doctors, by adopting EMRs, can realize greater cost and operational efficiencies.

According to Gingrich, what doctors want to do is "have a very sophisticated, very accurate electronic system which enables you to access the data flow, and enables you to make sure that you're meeting the various requirements in a way that maximizes your income and minimizes lost time and I think this is going to become even more important as we move into a more complex government centric system," said Gingrich.

The enthusiasm displayed by Gingrich for EMR adoption, however, was somewhat dampened on Thursday when a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll revealed that, despite years of hype around EMR adoption, less than one in 10 American adults now utilize EMRs or turn to e-mail to contact their doctor.

The online poll, which questioned 2,035 adults June 8-10, also showed that despite the Obama administration's campaign to expand the use of health IT, including the authorization of $19 billion in stimulus funding over several years to speed doctors' and hospitals' move toward electronic records, public attitudes toward EMRs haven't budged much over the past few years.

The survey indicated that many Americans don't have a clue as to whether their doctors use EMRs, with nearly half of respondents saying they weren't even sure if their physician offered these technologies. A little more than a quarter (28%) of those polled thought their doctor used EMRs, and 42% said they didn't know if their primary care physician had the technology. "The general public only has a vague idea, only a very limited understanding, of what all this is about," Humphrey Taylor, chairman of the Harris Poll, a service of Harris Interactive, said in a statement.

The poll also showed that patients' use of various electronic functions remains very low. Only 9% can communicate with their doctors by e-mail, up from 4% in 2006. Eight percent can schedule a doctor's visit online, up from 3%, and 8% can get diagnostic test results by e-mail, up from 2% in 2006.

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