Don't Repeat the UK's Electronic Health Records Failure

Stephen Soumerai and Tony Avery | Huffington Post | December 1, 2010

How do we avoid the UK's failure? The administration or Congress should slow down the program and delete those parts of the legislation that fine doctors for not using this technology. There's no need to have this system in place by 2014. Instead, we should conduct rigorous studies of the cost-effectiveness of electronic health records systems before mandating their use. Rather than force doctors to choose from dozens of commercial software products developed in secret, we should take a hint from the non-commercial sector, such as the Veterans Administration, which uses "open-source" coding so people can work collaboratively to continuously improve the system.

The Obama administration wants government programs to be based on evidence of effectiveness. Simply following the lead of "IT believers" and salesmen without the requisite evidence will repeat the UK's failures. Now is the time to proceed carefully, consider existing research and the British experience, and chart a more rational course into the digital age of medicine.