Canadian town sets new standard for EMR resistance

I really would not want to live in Sarnia, Ontario. And not because it’s a hardscrabble Rust Belt town directly across the border from the equally hardscrabble—and very depressing—Port Huron, Mich. I wouldn’t want to live there because it might as well be the capital of physician resistance to technology.

According to a story in Canadian Healthcare Technology’s Technology For Doctors, fully half of the 150 physicians in town will choose to retire rather than adopt EMRs. At least that’s what Dr. Kunwar Singh, president of the Lambton County Medical Society, predicts. (Needless to say, Singh is a “veteran” physician, someone who’s been in practice for 42 years.)

The government of Ontario, which runs the single-payer health system in Canada’s most populous province, is offering financial incentives for physicians to switch from paper to electronic records. But like the “meaningful use” program here in the states, the money won’t cover the full cost of EMR conversion. T4D reports that the province will pay for about one-third of the estimated C$75,000 price tag. Unlike here, though, there is almost zero chance private insurers might also come up with incentives of their own at some point in the future. (Yes, Canada does have private health insurance, but it’s supplemental.)

Maybe Sarnia is an exception, but the defenders of the status quo really seem to be digging in their heels. And the losers, as usual, are patients.