EHRs are inevitable, experts say

By Diana Manos
10:23 AM

Electronic health records will become the norm, sooner than later, experts said at a summit hosted Friday by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

The bottom line, said many of the speakers at ONC's Grantee and Stakeholder Summit, is that consumers are demanding EHRs. The government is helping with adoption, but this is not nearly as influential as the healthcare consumer's pressure on providers.

National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari, MD, said the patient is not just "a ticket holder crammed into economy."

"The patient is the copilot" with his or her healthcare provider, Mostashari said. "Increasingly, we'll hear patients, consumers, people expecting more out of their interactions with others. So we're going to see all of the pieces come together for this."

[See also: Community hospitals adopting IT faster than ever.]

In a keynote speech, Jay Walker, curator for the TEDMED Conference, a forum for healthcare innovation, said "tech speed" is the world we live in. "Med speed" is much slower. Too slow, in fact, for consumer's liking, he said.

In a quick survey of the audience of 1,200 people, Walker asked who does not possess a smart card. Only fifteen people raised their hands. Walker pointed out that would not have been true five years ago. Smart cards are a new phenomenon, and part of the exponentially changing world consumers live in. Paper maps, phone books and rolodexes are now all obsolete. "The consumer is driving all of the change," he said.

"Suddenly the patients are in charge of the future, instead of the healthcare system," Walker added. "You are at the front line when you walk into a doctor's office and say, 'it's time for electronic health records.'"

Walker said the cell phone – with some 1.2 billion sold this year – is having a greater impact on society than the printing press. "This is driving the future," he said. "Your doctor thinks he can avoid this? It would be like avoiding electricity in 1900."

Walker said historically, there are five stages society goes through when major change takes place.

First, the idea is dismissed as a pipe dream. Second, the change is delayed. Third – the stage currently held by EHRs – there is disruption by early adopters. "They attack the marketplace and this triggers the antibodies. The naysayers come out of the woodwork."

The fourth stage is the domino stage, when things are inevitable and the bandwagon effect kicks in. And finally, there is dominance. The change is fully made.

Walker encouraged innovators and stakeholders to hang on. Soon the domino effect for EHR adoption will kick in.

"Never in history has the speed of change been this fast," Walker said. "The force of the wave is so powerful, it's not going to get slowed."

Aneesh Chopra, the United States chief technology officer said the change is "palpable and extremely rewarding."

"There has never a better time to be an innovator in healthare," he said. "We are strongly motivated by the evidence."

[See also: RECs surpass 100,000 physician goal on EHR adoption.]

"The adoption of EHRs is on the move," Chopra added. "Calculate the rate of change. The rate of change blows your mind. We have doubled EHR adoption in two years. A whole community is dialoguing about the adoption. This is very clearly what we are anticipating."

Follow Diana Manos on Twitter @DManos_IT_News.