Briefing

Death by a thousand clicks: Where electronic health records went wrong

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A joint investigation by Fortune and Kaiser Health News (KHN) found that the US$36-billion effort in the U.S. to digitize medical records through electronic health records systems (EHR) has made it easy for physicians to inflate bills. The government-led initiative has also resulted in patient deaths, and thousands of serious injuries and near-misses due to software glitches and user errors. Meanwhile, the EHR has grown to become a US$13-billion-a-year industry. (Fortune, KHN)

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Talking point: The investigation can be read as a cautionary tale for Canada as it considers how to manage its own EHR system. Canada Health Infoway, a crown corporation, has spent more than $2 billion trying to digitize health records in Canada , but the system here so far looks a lot like the one described in the U.S., where records still aren’t easily portable between domestic borders or even hospitals. Dr. Nav Persaud, a physician and patient advocate, has called for Canada to build a national EHR, rather than a system of disparate initiatives and technologies that don’t communicate with each other, but that hasn’t happened yet. That lack of coordination, Persaud said, can lead to problems with oversight, including previous diagnoses and treatments being overlooked or medical testing being unnecessarily repeated.