The New York Times is reporting that electronic records have created opportunities for doctors to bill for phantom exams on patients, putting them at risk.
According to the Times, a new electronic system prompts doctors to click a box indicating that a thorough review of patients' symptoms has taken place, even though the physical exams are rarely performed. Another function of the system allows doctors to pull generic exam findings "from thin air" and include them in patients' records. At Koskoff, we frequently see catastrophic injuries that could have been prevented by a simple physical exam by the treating physician. The physical exam, once the staple of good medical practice, has been on the decline primarily because it is not profitable for doctors to take time with individual patients. This new electronic system allows doctors to save time and check a box that states they performed an exam, which makes them more money in a much shorter time period. This is a dangerous and troubling trend that will lead to more preventable injuries down the road. The fact the the electronic system is making it easier to "fake" the results of a good medical exam is even more troubling. Doctors must stop putting profits over people or patients will continue to be needlessly injured.