U.S. issues standards to spur e-health records

WASHINGTON Thu Dec 31, 2009 11:50am EST

A monitor in the control room displays data in the cardiac catherization area of Tulane University Hospital in New Orleans February 14, 2006. REUTERS/Lee Celano

A monitor in the control room displays data in the cardiac catherization area of Tulane University Hospital in New Orleans February 14, 2006.

Credit: Reuters/Lee Celano

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. health officials released standards for electronic medical records on Wednesday, seeking to spur the technology in hopes of cutting health costs and reducing medical errors.

Congress required the standards, partly as a condition of about $19 billion in February's economic stimulus bill that is aimed at encouraging doctors and hospitals to convert paper records into digital files.

One set of proposals, issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), defines "meaningful use" of electronic records, in order for health care providers to be eligible for incentive payments.

Proposed requirements include that at least 80 percent of all patients who request an electronic copy of their health records receive it within 48 hours.

Another set of standards, issued as an interim final rule by the Health and Human Services Department, aims to enhance the interoperability, functionality, utility, and security of health information technology.

Electronic health records have been available for years, but many doctors' offices remain mired in paper.

"Widespread adoption of electronic health records holds great promise for improving health care quality, efficiency, and patient safety," David Blumenthal, the health department's national coordinator for Health Information Technology, said in a statement.

Part of the problem is that despite dozens of available software choices, there has been no clear standard so that information is easily shared between different providers or hospitals.

With no clear choice, many have been reluctant to spend money on systems that could quickly become obsolete.

The standards, which are subject to a public comment period, could affect companies such as Allscripts-Misys Healthcare Solutions Inc, Cerner Corp and McKesson Corp.

Larger technology companies such as General Electric's GE Healthcare unit, Siemens, Microsoft Corp and Google Inc are also involved in the health information technology business.

A final rule on standards for electronic records technology will be issued sometime in 2010. The proposed CMS rules on the incentives program will be subject to 60 days of public comment

(Reporting by Karey Wutkowski and Susan Heavey; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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Comments (3)
johnfranks999 wrote:
Anyone else here reading “I.T. WARS”? I don’t mean this to get screened as spam – the book is in my library (Fairfax Co. Public Library – DC Metro area) and you can probably read it for free. But the main point: I had to read parts of this book as part of my employee orientation at a new job. The book talks about a whole new culture as being necessary – an eCulture – for a true understanding of security, being that most identity/data breaches are due to simple human errors. I am frankly surprised that the concept of an “eCulture” is not a dominant topic of discussion, particularly in establishing some of the standards under consideration. Why is there no national discussion of the crucial, and reciprocally-relying, “business-technology weave”? The book has a great chapter on security. Just Google “IT WARS” – check out a couple links down and read the interview with the author David Scott. (Full title is “I.T. WARS: Managing the Business-Technology Weave in the New Millennium”).

Dec 31, 2009 11:57am EST  --  Report as abuse
sunnytoo wrote:
Once an error is entered, try getting it removed. The spelling by Medical Assistants and other non professionals, they are awful,too, is atrocious. I’ve repeatedly corrected my medication and adverse medication list at every visit,it’s when I insist it be updated, then the MD has to do this. You can opt out for sharing electronic med records if you do so in writing and read those clinic appt and hospital admission and Emergency room consents, front and back. I’m an entirely different patient on paper than I am in person. I’m an RN, reading my clinic notes, I swear I wasn’t at that visit, only traces of me. Stay away from doctors and ED’s and admissions. The rich don’t use the same system most of us do, that may have employer based health insurance. My doctors don’t use the same hospital they teach/work at, either. What does that say? $$$$ and elitism and disparity at middle income and higher.

Dec 31, 2009 7:04pm EST  --  Report as abuse
ACPants wrote:
A standard for electronic Health Information Management has been a long time coming. Public hospitals, at the very least, need to be able to access records for transient and nomadic peoples, whom without health insurance, depend on urgent care and ER visits, and almost never use the same location for care twice. HCA uses EPIC System as their standard, so all of their centers have access to patient records nationwide. Other hospital networks have adapted, but have used different HIM conversions, due to cost? Possibly, or possibly to keep private and public healthcare segregated.
HIPA standards are one vital part of making this system work. Being able to protect the patients is supposed to be the motive behind this, but it ends up being a way of privatized health care providers to keep their records under lock and key as well.
It’s a start, but it’s far from a perfect solution. User error or outsourced transcription done by non-American English speakers is responsible for a large majority of the mistakes made in electronic records. Making sure that the proper software implementation and training is provided is integral to making the conversion to electronic records possible, and private healthcare providers would have to cover their personal costs for those processes.
I’d rather bleed a turnip.

Jan 01, 2010 2:26pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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