#HIMSS15 – Will the physician voice of angst be heard?

When it comes to the frustrations associated with health IT and the use of electronic medical or health records, U.S. physicians should know your Canadian colleagues feel your pain.
A national survey of Canadian doctors conducted last year (known as, wait for it, The National Physician Survey) with responses from more than 10,000 physicians documented many of those concerns.
While use of EMRs has grown rapidly among the Canadian physician population in the last decade there are still significant areas of the country where access to an EMR system is not available. More significantly, the majority of physicians continue to use a combination of paper and electronic records and many joke that the fax machine continues to hold sway in this country.
Perhaps what is more concerning is the percentage of physicians (17%) who feel the use of an EMR has decreased rather than increased their productivity and the high percentage of doctors who are only using their EMR as an electronic record keeping device rather than for any of the multitude of other functionalities that are available. For example, electronic prescribing in Canada still remains a vision for the future rather than the cornerstone of effective EMR use.
Interoperability continues to be the bugbear for both policy makers and individual physicians. in Canada. While Canadian doctors do not face the situation of U.S. physicians who having dozens of competing EMR vendors trying to sell to them most are still unable to easily exchange data electronically with the hospitals, other physicians, pharmacies or other providers in their communities.
Worse yet in the eyes of some physicians in Canada are the disappearance in the biggest provinces of government programs that paid the majority of costs associated with putting a computer on the desk and providing the software to digitize patient records.
“Meaningful use” has little meaning in Canada in the legislative sense but many Canadian doctors would sympathize as the U.S. federal government starts to implement the “stick” phase of the “carrot and stick” plan for encouraging use of electronic health records.
And don’t even start on the issue of patient participation as in Canada few patients can easily access their own record electronically and even fewer can communicate with their physician by email about their health concerns.
So, as speakers such as American Medical Association (AMA) President Dr. Robert Wah start to outline the challenges and opportunites facing U.S. physicians with health IT (in his address at the Innovation pre-conference symposium this morning) Canadians will be listening closely.
From the viewpoint of an external observer there has been a growing chorus of U.S. doctors recently vocally expressing why they are unhappy with the experience of using electronic health records – with even organized medical groups such as the AMA chiming in.
It will be interesting to see whether such concerns are heard in the evangelical atmosphere of HIMSS15 in Chicago this week.

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