Some EMR systems such as my own are funded through a business model supported by coporate ads for such things as drugs and computer systems. However, some critics like to tout that these EMR systems are ad-driven and hence have the potential to influence prescribing behaviors of providers. They say that there are costs of an ethical nature. I would beg to differ with this type of pure approach to practicing medicine in 2011. We should consider that drug companies are here to stay, and we are already bombarded by the media ads and commercials on television that display pharmaceutical ads all the time. It’s impossible to stop their input into our daily lives as providers and as citizens in general. Moreover, most providers have a set group of medications they are comfortable with and are only influenced to try new or different drugs in the setting of actually needing to, as opposed to just seeing an ad. In all my years, I have never met anyone who actually claimed to have begun prescribing a drug because of seeing an ad.
Aside from the media, insurance companies influence prescribing behaviors far more than drug ads on EMRs can ever come close to. Insurance plans can actually deny certain drugs to the patient and make it very difficult for a provider to go through a ton of red tape to get a non-preferred drug approved. So much red tape, in fact, that the doctor often just changes the prescription to the preferred drug to avoid extra and unnecessary phone calls and paperwork. The insurance company doesn’t care that the preferred drug may be inferior, as it often is, from my perspective. The drug and insurance companies are merely bed partners in these cases.
Finally, I’d love to know the stats on how many critics of drug ads in EMR systems would be willing to pay even a small fee per month to use the EMR in the absence of such ads. Oh, to be the fly on that wall. 🙂
Dr. West is an endocrinologist in private practice in Washington, DC. He completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and opened The Washington Endocrine Clinic, PLLC, as a solo practice in 2009. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.