For Years The RAND Corporation Claimed EMRs Would Save Us $100 Billion Per Year — Until Their Own Research Proved Otherwise

Seriously, we’ve heard enough idealistic hoopla about EMRs improving patient care. It is not the reality of the situation. What appears to be the reality is that the companies who provide the EMRs, and get government kick backs for doing such, are definitely raking in a lot of dough. What’s not happening, though, is anything beneficial in the doctor’s office. The machines aren’t widely adopted and when they are, they’re costing doctors time with unnecessary clicks. And the nail in the coffin comes from the New York Times, who write, “The conversion to electronic health records has failed so far to produce the hoped-for savings in health care costs and has had mixed results, at best, in improving efficiency and patient care, according to a new analysis by the influential RAND Corporation.”

And go figure, RAND’s optimistic predictions in 2005 were the catalyst for explosive sales and mega growth in the EMR industry. Thanks to the research and findings offered by RAND, the federal government gave billions of dollars in financial incentives to hospitals and doctors. This is the money that helped wrap our healthcare system in grossly outdated red tape.

“We’ve not achieved the productivity and quality benefits that are unquestionably there for the taking,” said Dr. Arthur L. Kellermann. He authored the RAND reassessment that was published in January’s edition of Health Affairs. Question then is, what did this project achieve?

Thankfully, investigative journalists found some obvious winners. According to the Times, “RAND’s 2005 report was paid for by a group of companies, including General Electric and Cerner Corporation.” As you would expect, these companies have made revenue by both developing and selling EMR to hospitals and providers. This is awesome. The Times writes, “Cerner’s revenue has nearly tripled since the report was released, to a projected $3 billion in 2013, from $1 billion in 2005.”

This original RAND report claimed that if EMR was widely adopted then the United States health care system would save at least $81 billion a year. And now that figure was overstated according to RAND. And there is little evidence to even back any savings claim because amidst all of this confusion and inherent pricing collusion, hospitals and providers may have been given a tool that allowed them to charge insurance companies for procedures they didn’t even adminster.

“Many experts say the available systems seem to be aimed more at increasing billing by providers than at improving care or saving money” writes The Times.

Dr. David Blumenthal helped oversee the federal push to get Obama to incentivize the adoption of electronic records. Blumenthal’s now president of a nonprofit health group called the Commonwealth Fund. While there’s evidence to back claims that electronic records can contribute to better care and more efficiency, Dr. Blumenthal said, the current systems don’t always work towards achieving them.

According to the Time, “Federal officials say they are drafting new rules to address many of the concerns about the current systems.”

Wow. All we’re going to say is, aren’t you glad that we’re a direct care clinic?