Obama’s Electronic Medical Records Scam

Here’s more evidence that government “cures” are inevitably worse than the “diseases” they seek to wipe out. Buried in the trillion-dollar stimulus law of 2009 was an electronic medical records “incentive” program. Like most of President Obama’s health care rules, this top-down electronic record-sharing scheme is a big fat bust.

Oversight is lax. Cronyism is rife. The job-killing and privacy-undermining consequences have only just begun.

The program was originally sold as a cost-saving measure. In theory, modernizing record-collection is a good idea, and many private health care providers have already made the change. But as with many government “incentive” programs, the EMR bribe is a tax-subsidized, one-size-fits-all mandate. This one pressures health care professionals and hospitals across the country into radically federalizing their patient data and opening up medical information to untold abuse. Penalties kick in for any provider that hasn’t switched over by 2014.

So, what’s it to you? Well, $4 billion has already gone out to 82,535 professionals and 1,474 hospitals, and a total of $6 billion will be doled out by 2016. But the feds’ reckless profligacy, neglect and favoritism have done more harm than good.

Don’t take my word for it. A recent report released by the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General acknowledged that the incentive system is “vulnerable to paying incentives to professionals and hospitals that do not fully meet” the program’s quality assurance requirements. The federal health bureaucracy “has not implemented strong prepayment safeguards, and its ability to safeguard incentive payments postpayment is also limited,” the IG concluded.

Translation: No one is actually verifying whether the transition from paper to electronic is improving patient outcomes and health services. No one is actually guarding against GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). No one is checking whether recipients of the EMR incentives are receiving money redundantly (e.g., raking in payments when they’ve already converted to electronic records). No one is actually protecting private data from fraud, abuse or exploitation.

Little is being done to recoup ill-gotten payments. In any case, such “pay and chase” policing after the fact is a crummy way to run government in lean times — or in fat times, for that matter.

As for the claim that the EMR conversion will reduce paperwork, many doctors say the reality is just the opposite. In Greensboro, N.C., Dr. Richard Aronson told local TV station FOX 8 that the mandate doubled the amount of paperwork in his private practice. Everyone from optometrists to general practitioners to chiropractors to podiatrists must divert precious time and resources to conforming with Washington health bureaucrats’ imposed vision. Some medical professionals are now warning that the dangerous phenomenon of “distracted doctoring” is on the rise as a result of data-driven imperatives that direct health care providers’ attention away from their patients and onto their screens and hand-held devices.

You know who is benefiting from the initiative? Put on your shocked faces: Obama donors and cronies.

Billionaire Judith Faulkner, Obama’s medical information czar and a major Democratic contributor, just happens to be the founder and CEO of Epic Systems — a medical software company that stores nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population’s health data. Another billion-dollar patient-record database grant program has doled out money to the University of Chicago Medical Center (where first lady Michelle Obama and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett both served in high-paid positions). As I’ve previously reported, these administration grants circumvent any and all congressional deliberation as part of Team Obama’s election-year “We Can’t Wait” initiatives.

Even as the White House touted the move toward gee-whiz 21st-century electronic databases, health care professionals in the know have debunked that claim, too. Companies like Faulkner’s, which lobbied loudest for the mandates and “incentives,” represent traditional hard drive-dependent software firms that are already dated. As Athenahealth Chairman and CEO Jonathan Bush, who advocates cloud-computing alternatives, put it: The Obama electronic records mandate is “healthcare information technology’s version of cash-for-clunkers.”

Then there’s the still-growing and untold number of doctors nationwide who are closing up shop or limiting their practices and converting to “concierge care” to escape this and myriad other Obamacare intrusions. My own primary care physician in Colorado Springs quit her regular practice and converted to “concierge care” because of the EMR imposition. Creve Coeur, Mo., doctor Shari Cohen made the same move.

“The demands of caring for my patients while navigating through the current health care delivery systems dictated that I take more and more time away from patient care and spend an increasing part of my day on the system itself,” she told the Creve Couer Patch. “Electronic Medical Records was the final shove for me. It added another whole layer in interference in the doctor-patient relationship and one I was not sure I wanted to take on.”

More paperwork. More waste. Less accountability. Less care. Government malpractice at work.

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  • davarino

    I wish the congress men and women were made to live by the same rules they foist on us commeners. Things would be a lot different : )

    • RedWhiteAndJew

      Yeah. And with Moochelle backseat driving, the operative phrase is:

      Don't let them eat cake

  • commenter

    In many cases, electronic medical records are a disaster – you can find situations where doctors are the ones typing up the information and clicking on the screens. This *adds* to their workload and *increases* costs. In busy practices the doctors have to scribble their own notes on pieces of paper and then late at night try to type them up. There isn't enough time to see patients and simultaneously navigate data entry work. A cash-strapped hospital won't hire data entry workers and union rules interfere with giving the work to many of their personnel, so they force the doctors to be data entry clerks.

    More specifically, electronic medical records are terrible for: (i) busy practices, because there is no time for doctors to navigate the system with a crushing workload of patients and (ii) generalist practices, because you can't rely on a limited template on a screen to enter info (e.g., a dematologist can enter information on the skin information screen and just keep it open, a general practitioner has to click all over the place to enter information because they review a wide range of maladies). And if you are a generalist who is also busy . . . good luck with that . . .

    • Jim_C

      That may and may not be the case. There are some time saving aspect to EMRs as well. At some point that doc has to enter info–whether on paper or on screen. Private practices have some choice over which system to use. But the future will be practitioners walking around with mobile devices instead of clipboards.

      • CatK

        No, this is not a good thing. The doctor is now not facing the patient but has their back or their side to the patient because they seated at a monitor typing in information. So much for bedside manner. Interestingly, I wonder if young doctors even know how awful this seems to patients who remember the way it used to be. Welcome to the brave new world. I won't call it Kafkaesque because Kafka could never have imagined anything this bizarre.

      • Nancy H

        I am mostly switched over to EMR, just need to do the doctor part soon. I can hardly wait to see what it will be like to use my lap-top in the exam room with an autistic child. It is sufficiently challenging to get some notes scribbled in charts. Then there is the multi-thousand dollar investments doctors were forced to make. The trickle back reward for using the system makes only a small dent in the debt many doctors incurred to be "compliant." Government should follow the dictum given to doctors: First, do no harm.

  • Roy

    RE: "Translation: No one is actually verifying whether the transition from paper to electronic is improving patient outcomes and health services."

    However, when the mood suits "The Administration" our invasive personal health information can certainly be used to control our end health outcome…….say, like, IF we happen to be a non-union, pro-life, pro NRA Republican.

    Do you want Kathleen Sebelius controlling your health decisions?

  • Ghostwriter

    I'm kinda neutral on the whole electronic paperwork thing.

  • JacksonPearson

    "Like most of President Obama’s health care rules, this top-down electronic record-sharing scheme is a big fat bust."

    It's not a bust for socialism. Because anytime they can hire people to complicate things, and then those complicators hire more people to shuffle papers, they've won.

  • MLR

    As a practioner who has used an EMR for the past 2 years I have come to appreciate it more and more. I like to say that the EMR is greatest when the patient is not there because I have access to so much information anywhere there is a computer and Internet access.
    It is a new way for doctors to record patient information and way overdue for us to finally get into the 21st century. It most assuredly does detract from the doctor patient encounter but I think overtime it is much preferable to illegible scribbled notes that convey no useful information.
    The ability to rapidly find important clinically relevant patient information actually streamlines care and reduces errors. There is always a learning curve whenever electronic systems are introduced to a work place. However, it has been my experience that computers make ordinary things extra ordinary.
    Should the federal government be intamitly involved with this process? I don't think that this is the role of the federal government other than to not stand in the way of the private sector carrying out this change. In fact, our practice converted long before any mandates from Obama.

  • Jim_C

    As MLR says above there are many advantages to EMRs and to blame the feds for it is a bit silly. Like the adoption of any new system, which most of us have dealt with in our working lives, there's going to be inconveniences and learning curves.

    Malkin is complaining about something that has barely got off the ground.

  • Thomas Wells

    Obamacare is "green medicine"-it will make you vomit and turn green.

  • J.S.

    Ontario, Canada (o surprise!) also wanted to computerize their medical files — it cost the government a billion dollars. And are the records now computerized? Of course not! It was just another scam to enrich the govt cronies. (And one of the individual's involved in the billion dollar fiasco, left Ontario and was hired in Alberta. He has been involved in bilking taxpayers to the tune of over 300,000 dollars in yet another health care scam, in which he was claiming "expenses." And when he was let go by Alberta, he received a mega thousand dollar "severance package." Oh, and Allaudin Merali defends himself by claiming he should have/could have claimed even more on his "expense" account (that included, btw, butler service).

  • Grouchy Old Man

    My doctor says he spends 20% of his time filling out Federal forms such as those for Medicare. Since he spends as much time as necessary with patients – he is never in a hurry – he is the only doctor I know who is in the office every Sunday afternoon, you guessed it, filling out paperwork on the computer.

  • Gadema Quoquoi

    Proper Deployment of Health Information Technology (HIT), with the Appropriate Training will improved healthcare operational efficiency, improved healthcare outcomes, and help reduced the National Deficit.

    G. K. Quoquoi

  • Gadema K. Quoquoi

    This Nation must used its biggest strength – ICT/IT to reduced the National Deficit. The Question is How?

    With the approval of Presiden'st ObamaCare Law by the US Supreme Court, this Healthcare Reform Law is THE LAW OF THE LAND, like or not.

    This adds more patients to the National healthcare services. Now, if we implement HIT properly, we can improved healthcare outcomes, and have a Costs Savings of around 20-30% of National Annual, Healthcare Expenditures.

  • Ricardo

    Isn’t the practice liable in this case for privacy violations? http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2013/10/24/practice-fusion-reviews-whoops/