Standards, costs keep docs from digital age


Dr. Brian Zell was an early adopter of electronic health records when he switched his suburban Philadelphia practice to a computerized system five years ago — but he still uses reams of paper.

Most experts agree that electronic records reduce medical mistakes and cut costs by avoiding duplication, but there is no standardized way to share digital information with other doctors, hospitals or insurers.

At Zell’s office in Marlton, New Jersey, doctors and office staff use 13 computers to manage notes on patient care as well as keep insurance and payment records. But they still use paper for referrals, faxing forms and other tasks.

“Until there’s a standard technology … it makes it very difficult for my practice to leap forward,” said Zell, an orthopedic surgeon who shares a 10,000-patient practice.

A group of companies hopes to have a prototype of a national health network ready later this year, but there is still a debate over whether doctors need incentives to digitize their practices.

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