Over the past 2 decades, Republican and Democrat administrations have joined forces to require the use by physicians and hospitals of government-certified, inter-operable electronic medical records systems, or EMRs. These online record-keeping systems will send personal patient information collected by all participating providers directly to the centralized Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, a newly created government agency whose job is making the medical records of the American people “inter-operable–” that is, instantly accessible to any “qualified” agency or agent.
For example, if the patient of a New Jersey physician should become the victim of a medical emergency in Nevada, stored medical information will be instantly available to a Las Vegas surgeon. Expensive and time-consuming testing may be unnecessary as the patient’s entire medical history will be a matter of computer record.
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On its face, the advent of EMRs appears to be a boon for patients and doctors alike. But as with all federally mandated contributions to the greater good, any advantages associated with EMRs are guaranteed to benefit and serve the DC bureaucracy and not the American people.
First of all, why should it be necessary to FORCE participation of healthcare providers in the EMR system by means of financial blackmail? “Doctors who do not participate by 2015 will be penalized 1 percent of their Medicare payments, which increases to 3 percent over 3 years.” The state of Massachusetts reports that “…60 percent of doctors could not meet the EMR mandate and face potential loss of their licenses in 2015.” Quite a weighty stick to wield against physicians who have dedicated years of their lives and countless dollars to secure that license to practice medicine.
As for the carrot, doctors who maintain online records will receive “…up to $44,000 for five consecutive years of Medicare participation, or up to $63,750 over six years for Medicaid participation.” And as physicians stand to earn some $380,000 over a six year period, hospitals and other eligible institutions can rake in $12 million or more.
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Of course, any participant expecting payment for services or the privilege of keeping their license to practice must meet certain EMR “meaningful use requirements” as set down by the government. And the principle requirement is the absolute selling out on patient privacy. Many physicians are now accompanied to the examining room by “scribes” who take down every word spoken by both doctor and patient, all for the purpose of mandatory EMR input. Doctor/patient confidentiality will consist of total access to patient records by some 2.2 million individuals and agencies, including, of course, the federal government.
And how will that intrusive bureaucracy make use of records submitted through EMR? Patient behavior will be tracked in order to be modified as necessary. Smokers, for example, will be “encouraged” to quit or absorb massive premium increases–at BEST! Patients will be assigned risk scores to determine whether treatment should be offered or withheld. Why spend vast sums treating a sky diver or someone unlikely to get well? And patient behavior modification will be introduced as Michael Bloomberg’s Nanny State mandates and exclusions will extend throughout the country.
Most importantly, medical treatment will be directed by the state or federal government. Bureaucrats will inform doctors what level of care may be offered based upon the patient profile–a profile that may include political party, race, religion, income level, or even firearm ownership. As with rewards and penalties based upon EMR usage, doctors will earn bonuses for limiting costly treatments and be penalized for “unnecessary” charges to Medicare or Medicaid.
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“This is the federal government trying to dictate the practice of medicine…trying to micromanage physicians across the country,” says Heritage Foundation health policy analyst Chris Jacobs. Of course, solicitous Americans will accommodate the bureaucracy by dying when directed and without complaint. What could possibly be more fair?
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