Doc: reports generated from EMRs may be 'impressive' but that doesn't necessarily mean care is

By Molly Merrill
01:46 PM

Making the assumption that electronic medical records can improve healthcare costs and errors is premature, according to a dermatologist practicing in Florida.

Steven P. Rosenberg, MD, of Palm Beach Dermatology told the The Palm Beach Post earlier this month that he would like the Florida Board of Medicine to issue a statewide warning for EMRs.

Rosenberg is "not against EMRs and not against government incentives that would improve healthcare," he said, but he does believe further research is needed.

"Government agencies need to do more due diligence to make sure programs are going to be worth the investment," Rosenberg said, adding that doctors need to be thoroughly trained in EMR programs and familiar with limitations and potential problems. 

"Speaking as a physician," he said, "I see many problems related to EMRs."

One problem is irrelevancy. "Physicians are seeing these large records that are totally irrelevant to the patient's actual problem," Rosenberg said. "You may be able to generate a three-page report by simply tapping on the screen, which is impressive, but it doesn't mean that the care provided is."

Rosenberg said many EMRs default to "normal" settings unless the doctor actually checks something else. Because doctors rarely review what the report generates (unless someone requests it) it sits in the computer, and it is assumed that the information generated is correct. 

For example he said one EMR report generated for a patient with a full hysterectomy indicated the patient had a "normal" cervix and was requesting a pap smear.

"If computers were so smart, they wouldn't allow you to print that out," Rosenberg said. "They would recognize the history there."

The bottom line, he said, is that notes need to be accurate and reliable. "If EMRs could do that, it would be wonderful. But right now they have some flaws and are not perfect."