Electronic Health Information Could Help Surveillance, Prevent Mistakes

By Murray, Linda Rae | The Nation's Health, March 2011 | Go to article overview

Electronic Health Information Could Help Surveillance, Prevent Mistakes


Murray, Linda Rae, The Nation's Health


IN 2004, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology was formed within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with the goal of supporting electronic health records for every person in the United States. In 2008, the office produced a strategic plan that called for secure management of electronic-based medical information to improve personal health and support population-oriented uses.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 placed $2 billion into planning for health information exchanges, which allow health care information to be shared across systems. Some of the traditional reasons to increase movement toward robust electronic health records have been to decrease medical errors, particularly with e-prescribing; increase medical quality; and save costs, which has been loosely defined as eliminating duplicate services and improving efficiency.

To the extent that electronic medical records exist, they have been centered around hospital-based services and financial needs. At the moment, the largest depositories of electronic information of patient information are held in the health insurance industry. The public health community must advocate for population-based "meaningful use" components of personal health information.

Meaningful use of electronic health records could help speed the transition to e-prescribing, thus decreasing medical errors, and, most ambitiously, encouraging better chronic disease management and increasing prevention activities.

Today, technology allows us to have an entirely different approach to surveillance. …

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Electronic Health Information Could Help Surveillance, Prevent Mistakes
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