Panel Suggests Steps toward Electronic Medical Records

A federal health-care subcommittee offers 12 draft recommendations for moving patient records to an electronic system, calling for research on interoperability standards, encryption and more.

More than 70 countries are already in the process of implementing electronic medical records. Among them are the United Kingdom and Canada, which are planning to roll out electronic medical record systems by 2010.

The United Kingdom already has committed $11 billion to transitioning patient records to an electronic system. During the past several months, the United States has also taken some initial steps to make electronic medical records a priority.

In President Bushs State of the Union address in January, he mentioned electronic medical records as key to reducing medical error and costs. In a speech later that month, Bush proposed doubling the current $100 million in federal spending on health information technology.

Still, the United States is in the very early stages of investigating electronic medical records. Last week, a subcommittee of the Presidents Information Technology Advisory Committee, called the health-care delivery and information technology subcommittee, offered 12 draft recommendations, here in PDF form, on electronic medical records.

The recommendations highlight specific research needs, the most urgent of which is to ensure standards of interoperability. They also call for research on managing legacy data systems, developing sufficient encryption to allow Internet transmission, and ensuring privacy, identification and security.

The subcommittee urged stepping up support of the National Health Information Infrastructure project, coordinated through the Department of Health and Human Services.

It also called for the creation of a new senior body to "coordinate the development and deployment of health IT solutions across all federal departments and agencies, and to coordinate the associated technology transfer to and from the private government."

Such a move would place the burden of innovating and adopting electronic medical record systems squarely on the shoulders of federal government medical programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid.

/zimages/2/28571.gifA recent report finds that electronic prescribing can cut errors and costs. Click here to read more.

The subcommittee expressed concerns that not only is the health-care industry somewhat resistant to the incorporation of information technology, but that the IT industry itself is not prepared to meet the needs of the health-care system.

The subcommittee will hold a meeting in May to solicit responses to its initial proposals, in conjunction with the Toward an Electronic Patient Record 2004 Conference & Exhibition, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The final recommendations will be released in June.

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