A RAND Corporation study has found that electronic medical records (EMRs) may save the United States >$81 billion annually through better procedures and reduced errors. The 2-year study assumed an average investment of $7.7 billion per year over a 15-year period, resulting in 90% of physicians and hospitals "successfully adopting" EMRs and using them efficiently to reach the forecasted savings.
To date, 20% to 25% of hospitals and 15% to 20% of physicians' offices have embraced computerized records, but they are "generally limited" in the ability to share information. The researchers recommended that the federal government speed up efforts to establish universal technology standards to promote adoption and to consider financial incentives for institutions implementing the technology, as published in Health Affairs (September/October 2005).
Supporters of EMRs and electronic prescriptions feel that such systems promise savings, but some of them caution that the technology will be hard to implement and is unlikely to yield big benefits in the near future. In a commentary on the RAND study,Harvard Medical School health policy experts said that steady but slow progress has been made in medical computing over the past 30 years.
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