Denmark sees results from electronic records

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

In The New York Times, Sindya Bhanoo examines Denmark, a country which has adopted health information technology to a high degree. Bhanoo finds that, while Denmark is in some ways an exceptional case, it can also provide a few principles to guide America’s proposed adoption of the same technology, chief among those being patience, persistence and a gradual pace.

electronic medical records

Photo by juhansonin via Flickr

While Denmark does not have a standardized electronic medical records system, it does have a national patient registry and a wealth of examples of hospitals adopting innovations such as telemedicine (including remote monitoring and diagnosis), paperless prescriptions and electronic modeling. “Virtually all” Danish primary care physicians use electronic records, Bhanhoo writes, and nearly half of Danish hospitals have adopted them as well. To put those numbers in perspective, Bhanoo mentions that “about 10 percent of American hospitals and about 17 percent of American doctors use electronic records.”

Bhanoo writes that while the decade-long Danish push into HIT has not been perfect – it’s fragmented and hampered by budget constraints – it has achieved measurable success.

Several studies, including one to be published later this month by the Commonwealth Fund, conclude that the Danish information system is the most efficient in the world, saving doctors an average of 50 minutes a day in administrative work. And a 2008 report from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society estimated that electronic record keeping saved Denmark’s health system as much as $120 million a year.

In the end, Bhanoo concludes that while these same successes will be harder to achieve in the significantly larger and more complex American system, experts believe that a modified Danish roadmap should be able to produce results in the United States.

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