The digitization of patients medical records is drawing strong interest from a wide range of sources, from medical facilities hoping to radically alter patient care and existing IT systems all the way to the desk of President George Bush.
In the broadest sense, the move to digital patient records is mandated by new regulatory compliance rules.
But for health care organizations such as West Branch Medical Center in Michigan, the move from paper-based records is a way to improve the speed, access and accuracy of handling records daily.
A key byproduct of the technology, which offers immediate return on investment, is increased patient satisfaction through quicker service, shorter waits and staff members who are more prepared because they have electronic data at their fingertips.
The subject of electronic medical records is also important to Bush, who cited the need to infuse the technology into health care environments during his State of the Union address in January.
"By computerizing health records, we can avoid dangerous medical mistakes, reduce costs and improve care," Bush said. "To protect the doctor-patient relationship and keep good doctors doing good work, we must eliminate wasteful and frivolous medical lawsuits."
Despite wide agreement that digital record-keeping is needed, more than 85 percent of U.S. hospitals are still primarily paper-based, according to Rose Harr, president and CEO of BlueWare Inc., in Cadillac, Mich.
Founded in 1993, BlueWare, a software company, provides health care organizations with integrated delivery network solutions through its Wellness Connection suite.
In running its software, BlueWare relies on partners such as IBM and its middleware technology.
What could change the picture is a cultural shift in medicine, similar to what is happening in many industries.