(AP)—America may be a technology-driven nation, but the health care
system’s conversion from paper to computerized records needs lots of
work to get the bugs out, according to experts who spent months studying
and doctors’ offices increasingly are going digital, the Bipartisan
Policy Center says in a report released Friday. But there’s been little
progress getting the computer systems to talk to one another, exchanging
data the way financial companies do.
“The level of health information exchange in the U.S. is extremely low,” the report says.
the consumer level, few people maintain a personal health record on
their laptop or electronic tablet, partly due to concerns about privacy,
security and accuracy that the government hasn’t resolved.
will sensitive health data be kept confidential and secure in digital
data-sharing environments?” the report asks. “Many consumers … are
waiting for a reassuring answer to this question.”
report offers a window on progress toward a goal set by President
Barack Obama, and President George W. Bush before him, that everyone in
the United States should have an electronic medical record by 2014.
While making no predictions, the report offers a collection of details indicating that the goal is a long shot at best.
100% of our nation have electronic health records by 2014?” asked Janet
Marchibroda, who directs the center’s health technology initiative. “I
would say getting to that last mile is difficult.” She expects the
majority of hospitals and doctors to meet the goal, but it’s another
matter when it comes to consumers.
politically polarized Washington, the center tries to tackle national
problems from a pragmatic perspective. The report, more than six months
in the making, was produced by a panel representing hospitals, doctors,
insurers, consumers and technology companies. The review was led by two
former senators with ties to the health care industry, Democrat Tom
Daschle of South Dakota and Republican Bill Frist of Tennessee.
medical records are seen as a crucial component in creating a system
that’s more efficient and less prone to error. The government has
committed up to $30 billion to encourage this shift, mostly through
incentive payments to hospitals and doctors that were authorized in 2009
under Obama’s economic stimulus law. Payments started flowing last
report found that 5% of eligible doctors received payments last year,
while about 33% had registered with the government that they intend to
Overall, about one-third of doctors’ offices had some form of electronic records last year, compared with one-fourth in 2010.
hospitals, 32% received the incentive payments last year, the report
said, while 61% notified the government they intend to qualify.
are signs of momentum, but the report found little progress in devising
ways for the different computer systems to communicate with each other.
Part of the problem is that there isn’t much financial incentive for competing health care providers to share information.
an emergency room orders a test on a patient that a family doctor had
run a week ago, the hospital gets paid for it. If the emergency room
doctor relies on the test results from the family doctor, that’s less
revenue for the hospital.
information exchange will not occur at optimal levels … without a
viable, sustainable business model,” the report said.
from 7% to 11% of individuals have a personal electronic medical
record. Some early adopters still run into problems with basic tasks
such as downloading test results, renewing prescriptions online or
report also says the government must address gaps in privacy
protections. For example, a federal health privacy law that applies to
hospitals, doctors, insurers and data transmission companies doesn’t
apply to companies that market electronic medical records directly to
uneven coverage of federal health privacy law can be confusing for
consumers and contributes to reluctance,” the report said.
SOURCE: The Associated Press