Once Electronic Medical Records EMRs were mandated, vendors put together a variety of software options. Now there are dozens of vendors with a variety of products ranging from $400 per month to several thousand dollars. One of the EMR vendors does not charge anything at all (it is truly free) for using its EMR, Practice Fusion, a free, cloud-based EHR. It is the most popular for small practices since the economics to purchase higher priced systems doesn’t work very well. Practice Fusion rates very well with comparable products too and is in the top 10.

The primary function of an EHR system is to integrate the patient information to other providers and facilities, to include labs, pharmacies, referring physicians, etc. Of course, patients are the most important part of health care, so good medical software gives them access to tools and information to help improve their care, including a patient portal where patients can perform a variety of tasks, such as requesting appointments, get copies of medical records, and access educational resources.

The EHR solution was supposed to meet government regulations, particularly the Meaningful Use (Medicare) which has created such a nightmare for providers even though the government provides financial incentives for implementation. A workable system was ideally supposed to link with outside systems and provide online access to those directly involved with a given patient’s care. And of course that integration would then allow practices to meet government regulations and guidelines.

As we have reported previously, a real quagmire is now the operational standard since all of those independent vendor products cannot communicate with each other, thus we have all of these independent systems that are unable to access or share the wealth of information now available with the online technology. It has been reported that some tech companies, hospitals and laboratories are intentionally blocking the electronic exchange of health information because they fear that they will lose their competitive niche for business if they share.

Certainly a fair percentage of providers succumbed to the pressure of integrating their records in spite of major misgivings and the related expense, but are continually complaining about the tremendous amount of time they waste to personally be forced to input the elements of the medical record templates. They are concerned that the clerical function takes away the interaction between patient and provider and limits of the number of patients they can reasonably care for.

Last but not least, the systems are mostly easily hacked with frequent reports of massive numbers of identity theft and credit card fraud. In a 3 trillion dollar business, that result would have been clearly predictable. The plan was not a bad one, but it certainly has gone awry.