The case for electronic medical records is compelling: They can make health care more efficient and less expensive, and improve the quality of care by making patients’ medical history easily accessible to all who treat them.
Small wonder that the idea has been promoted by the Obama administration, with strong bipartisan and industry support. The government has given $6.5 billion in incentives, and hospitals and doctors have spent billions more.
But as health care providers adopt electronic records, the challenges have proved daunting, with a potential for mix-ups and confusion that can be frustrating, costly and even dangerous.
Some doctors complain that the electronic systems are clunky and time-consuming, designed more for bureaucrats than physicians. Last month, for example, the public health system in Contra Costa County in California slowed to a crawl under a new information-technology system.