Electronic Health Records; Efficient and Safe for Patients and Care Givers

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 16, 2008 | Go to article overview

Electronic Health Records; Efficient and Safe for Patients and Care Givers


Byline: Donald Blanchon, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Congress - just like families across the country - is looking for ways to save money while simultaneously expanding resources. Of course, budget cuts are non-starters in election years, so Congress must look to more innovative ideas to save taxpayer dollars this fiscal year. One idea, long overdue, is to encourage a public andprivatepartnership to move toward digitized health records. A study by the Rand Corporation estimated that electronic medical records, health IT as it's known, could save Americans $81 billion a year.

That number, from such a respected source, demands further investigation. But when you think about it, the most reasonable response to health IT proposals is, Wait, we're not doing that already? In most cases, no. The health-care industry has lagged behind the rest of the economy in digitizing records. Though this technology does better serve everyone - including the under- and un-insured population - many hospitals, clinics, and health centers lack the funds to implement health IT systems. An unfortunate fact since right now, 20 percent of medical tests ordered every year are repeat tests because the results of the first tests were lost. And nearly 100,000 patients die every year due to medical errors. This is not a criticism of the dedicated doctors and nurses who take care of us. It's simply recognition that people in all industries make mistakes and that, as we know, slip-ups made in hospitals are more life-threatening than those made in accounting offices and coffee shops. It seems surprising that Congress has not taken the lead to move our health-care system toward health IT, by passing legislation this year to encourage investment and participation in it. Perhaps it is because, as with all great ideas, there are concerns.

One concern often raised is privacy. Many see paper - hard copies - as more secure than digital records. If that presumption was ever true, it certainly no longer is. Health IT will not only cut down on paper - thus saving money - but also will cut down on unwarranted and illegal reviewing of medical files. …

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