The Top Three Things The Mass Media Does To Delay EMR Adoption

Posted on June 18, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she’s served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Now that the government is pushing EMR use, the mainstream press has begun to report on the issue.

True, some astute editors are beginning to dig in to the problems that matter, such as securing patient data and challenges to getting physicians on board.

But most consumer publications, with their penchant for simplifying and condensing issues, are muddying the waters even further. Here’s some things they’re doing which, I’d argue, are actually slowing down the EMR adoption process:

*  Asking consumers whether they “want” an EMR: Let’s be honest: most consumers have only a vague idea of what an EMR is. You might as well ask them whether they’d like oh, I don’t know, a confoobatron. If they think those confoobatrons are supposed to be the latest thing in medicine, they’ll say sure, I’d want one of those!  In other words, you’re not giving doctors and hospitals real feedback as to how EMRs will foster relationships with their patients. It’s easy for clinicians to write off such responses as bogus and avoid adoption for a while longer.

* Focusing on a few spectacular security breaches: Yes, it’s really unfortunate that hospital staffers stole a peek at some Hollywood celeb’s medical data, or that a stolen laptop stocked with unencrypted data exposed patients at Hospital A to medical ID theft. But in playing up spectacular security breaches, mass media players distract everyone from the real issues. As we all know, most hospitals and doctors have far less glamorous problems to worry about, such as encrypting data, controlling access by role and seeing to it that staff are trained in security policies. But playing up a few disasters — such as stolen laptops or celebrity medical record leaks — makes it sound like security is beyond the reach of your average provider.

* Doing little to examine why physician adoption of EMRs is still low: While you will see the likes of USA Today look at abysmal EMR adoption rates, these stories usually collect a few random interviews with association heads or a random private practitioner and cite a few of their random headaches. These stories don’t dig into the really important issues (such as fear of productivity loss, lack of clinician buy in and techno-phobia) that are stopping the train. While doctors obviously read trade publications like this one, they’re human, and if the USA Today story they skimmed on the train doesn’t address their concerns, it’s easy to stay tuned out on EMRs for a while longer.

OK, maybe I’m being a bit unfair here.  Having been an editor for decades, I know the mass media can’t take the place of blogs like this that focus on serious professional issues. But I still wish that my colleagues in the consumer press would give EMR issues as much serious thought as, say, professional football. Wouldn’t that be refreshing?