Aside from the financial incentives for moving from paper to electronic health records (the federal government has pledged to help physicians to make the transition in 2011 with up to $44,000 in extra Medicare fees), the financial disincentives for not doing so (reduced Medicare payments beginning 2016), and the public policy argument that a paperless health information system will lead to lower-cost, higher-quality health care, a primary motivation for physicians to become “meaningful users” of electronic health records should be professionalism, Dr. David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, said in a plenary address at the annual meeting of the Society of General Internal Medicine in Minneapolis over the weekend.
“I believe that the proper use of information is a core competency of professionalism. I don’t think professionals can claim to be worthy of the licenses they’re granted and privileges they’re granted unless they know how to find information that’s relevant to their patients and use it in the most sophisticated way that’s available to them,” Dr. Blumenthal told the audience.
“Health information technology is the circulatory system for information in a health care system. In a very short time, it will be as commonly used as the stethoscope, electrocardiogram, and imaging of the chest and abdomen in internal medicine practice, and as routine as the scalpel and suture in surgery.” To be a technically competent medical professional in the 21st century, he contended, “you have to be able to manage it.”