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Physicians thinking about using electronic medical record software in New Brunswick woke up April 1st to a new and better world.

Gone is the golden glow of cash handouts, offered through a federal subsidy program called Canada Health Infoway. In its place, a new, more level playing field for EMR vendors in this province.

Up until now, the process of choosing and implementing an EMR was subject not only to one-sided marketing efforts by our own professional society, but also heavily influenced by the offer of taxpayers’ money to offset initial setup costs.    In effect, every taxpayer in the country – every store clerk, cab driver, teacher, firefighter, farmer, and soldier – was helping New Brunswick doctors to pay for their fancy new Velante electronic record system.

Is that fair or appropriate?

Not at all.

Doctors are well paid for the admittedly difficult work we do.   The process of migrating to electronic medical records should not require tapping into funds which might be better used elsewhere.   If the federal government wants to give handouts to doctors in New Brunswick, why not offer incentives to new physicians to move here and help care for the tens of thousands of citizens who do not have a family doctor?  There are dozens of ways our tax dollars could be better spent.

Instead, doctors who have been earning good living in NB were offered a gift of taxpayer money to buy a specific EMR product… and that is just wrong.

True EMR believers – and there are many of us – are more than able to shell out the required money to start using electronic medical records.    About 100 of us have done just that.  Although our patients and the public recognize the investment made by early adopters of EMR technology, not so our own New Brunswick Medical Society.   Instead, when we ask to be treated fairly and equally, we are criticized for having the audacity to question the wisdom of the Velante monopoly and the secret, exclusionary Data Sharing Agreement.

Essentially, people like me are being told by the President of the the NBMS to sit down and shut up.

The problem with the subsidy program was that it was being used to lure physicians who might not be entirely sold on the concept of a provincially-sanctioned EMR monopoly, to buy into it in nonetheless, in order to take advantage of the limited time offer of “money for nothing.”   As a result, doctors were being rushed into making hasty decisions, and encouraged to “enrol” with Velante without thinking through the consequences of their actions.

Above all, New Brunswickers must avoid the establishment of an exclusive, single-vendor EMR monopoly.

Monopolies are bad for business.  Bad for doctors.   Bad for patients.

I cannot think of a single business monopoly which has been good for customers, and it baffles me to think that there are people who continue to push for such a disastrous concept.

Choosing the best EMR product for a medical practice is no easy task.  There is no “one size fits all product.”  It’s best to look at a few different options, talk to people you know who are already using EMR software, and then think about why you want an EMR in the first place.   If after careful deliberation, you decide to go ahead with implementation, there are many different options.

Taking the time to do your research will avoid untold grief further down the road.





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