The Problems of Paperless Medical Records


Last week, NPR ran a story about the difficulties that doctors face when trying to transition to a paperless office. The report highlights the need for increased governmental guidance or independent consultants to assist doctors with making the switch to electronic record-keeping.


Currently, the federal government is offering tax benefits for doctors to move from paper to computer-based records; however, many physicians are finding that the transition is not simple. Even those who are concerned about the planet or who would like the tax break quickly begin to rethink the process once they begin.


Part of the problem is that the huge number of electronic record keeping systems that is available. With more than 1,000 programs being sold by various software companies, doctors struggle to find the best one for their needs. Many simply don't have time to review all of the possibilities with their already hectic schedules.


Another problem is external paper use that doctors cannot eliminate on their own. One physician interviewed stated that he received hundreds of paper faxes every day from insurance companies, pharmacies and even third-party businesses trying to sell products and services. While the latter are not instrumental to business, these other faxes are integral to day-to-day operations. Until the companies with which doctors must communicate also transition to an entirely paperless system, practices will still have waste with which to deal.


The articles was encouraging, however, as it evidences the desire of physicians to give up paper as much as possible. We can only hope that these trends will continue with a greater and greater reduction in paper consumption as a result.

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