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Why are electronic medical records so poorly designed?

December 5, 2009

Kevin MD recently stated on his blog that electronic medical records systems are basically useless (I’m paraphrasing, but I don’t think I’m too far off here).  I don’t disagree with this sentiment.  You only have to spend 5 minutes in a clinic with an EMR system to realize that physicians end up spending more time looking at their computer monitors than their patients, clearly a serious problem.  Most of the complaints about EMR systems from health care professionals are about their poor design–Kevin MD points to the “archaic interfaces that the current generation of EMRs have, which is akin to a user interface circa Windows 95.”  My question is–why?

Why are current EMR systems so poorly designed?  The technology sector in this country has become a dominant economic force and a major source of innovation within our economy.  It has churned out revolutionary products like the iPhone, Google (and all of its other services), and Facebook.  Why does it seem like the tech world is ignoring the medical world (and turning its back on a sector that is rapidly approaching 20% of GDP)?  It seems that with such a huge potential market and billions of new government spending tech companies would be falling all over themselves trying to come up with the “Windows” of EMR systems.  I have yet to read any satisfying commentary as to why a revolutionary EMR system has yet to be developed, which leads me to believe that there is a yet unidentified problem stymieing the development of good electronic records systems.

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