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Report: Crises at Flint, Hollywood Presbyterian show importance of electronic health records

Each offers object lessons in opportunities and risks, says Kalorama, projecting that $25 billion EHR market will continue to grow.
By Bernie Monegain
10:17 AM
Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles ultimately opted to pay $17,000 to rescue its information from cybercriminals.

Kalorama Information says electronic health record systems are here to stay after recent situations in Flint, Michigan and Hollywood Presbyterian in which electronic medical records played key roles in times of crisis.

In Flint, Michigan, where residents are dealing with a lead poisoning water crisis, the lead was discovered as the result of searches conducted using data from an Epic EHR system.

[Also: Flint hospital hit with cyberattack tied to hacker group Anonymous]

Paper records would have failed the community, Kalorama claimed in its report, "EMR 2015: The Market for Electronic Medical Records."

In Flint, the key physician involved in the case reviewed the EHRs of the children whose blood had been tested at the local hospital. Paper records alone would not have lent themselves to the kind of research needed to detect patterns, Kalorama researchers said.

"The side benefit of EMR conversion, aside from cost savings, is that practice would improve and providers, academics and governments could obtain better epidemiological information," said Kalorama Information Publisher Bruce Carlson in a statement.

"The visibility of the Flint, Michigan, story provides a real-world example of the benefits oft-stated during the conversion and incentive campaign," he said.

[Also: Hollywood Presbyterian gives in to hackers, pays $17,000 ransom]

The Kalorama report also points to EHR's vulnerabilities – most notably the recent case of medical data being held hostage by hackers at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles, which ultimately opted to pay $17,000 to rescue its information from cybercriminals.

Kalorama points to questions raised in that ransomware incident: whether the hospital properly encrypted information, whether staff was properly trained in anti-phishing techniques, whether EMR use audits were conducted, and if anyone was designated as chief security officer at the hospital.

"Such services and consulting offer opportunities for the industry, which has always been as much of a service industry as a software one," the Kalorama report said.

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The incident comes a time when many physicians and hospitals have and are continuing to convert to electronic records, driven by federal government incentives, Carlson points out.

Three out of four U.S. hospitals have a basic EMR system and most EMRs are being used without incident," Carlson said. "Ransomware attacks are not limited by any means to EMR or healthcare facilities as corporations and even police departments have suffered attacks."

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