Obama's Digital Records Plan No Panacea

President's $80B savings claim based on data-free study

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 12, 2009 9:13 AM CDT

(Newser) – When President Obama said last week switching the nation’s medical records to electronic data would save some $80 billion a year, Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband thought the same thing: How? It turns out the president’s claims are based on a 2005 RAND Corporation study, funded by interested parties HP and Xerox, which admits there’s no evidence backing its theoretical suppositions, the Harvard docs write for the Wall Street Journal.

The evidence we do have largely repudiates RAND’s findings. One study said doctors using electronic records actually made more diagnostic errors than their paper-shuffling colleagues. RAND says it attributes such findings to “not-yet-effective implementation.” But that “flies in the face of the scientific method,” argue Groopman and Hartzband. Science requires testing hypotheses. “The RAND study and the Obama proposal it spawned appear to be an elegant exercise in wishful thinking.”

Sorry, Obama, there's no evidence that electronic medical records are a cure for what ails us.   (Shutterstock)
President Barack Obama smiles in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, March 11, 2009.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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Medical care of human beings is not analogous to buying bar-coded groceries and checking-account balances online. - Drs. Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband, of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School

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