Federalizing Medical Records; Electronic Health Data Not a Cure-All

Article excerpt


President Obama claimed Monday that spending taxpayer money on electronic health care records would save lives and dollars. But the only thing assured is high upfront costs. Establishing an integrated national health information system isn't as easy or as beneficial as it sounds.

There is $36 billion from the stimulus package aimed at this effort. Despite the promise information technology holds for cutting down on unneeded procedures and helping avoid harmful drug interactions, it is far from a panacea.

Implementing computer record systems that work between doctors, hospitals and insurers has met with limited success. After decades of efforts, just 17 percent of U.S. physicians and 8 percent to 10 percent of hospitals have at least basic electronic health records systems, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

Government can't do any better than the private sector in expanding computerized patient records. For example, the Department of Veteran's Affairs and the Department of Defense can't effectively share medical records even though Congress mandated better sharing between the agencies back in 1992. …