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04/22/2009

Health Information Technology

According to the results of a poll released today, a large majority of Americans believe that electronic health records will improve the quality of care.  However, a majority also believes that these records will increase, rather than decrease costs.  Most respondents also fear that electronic records will increase the risk that confidential information will be released to unauthorized persons.  Despite these concerns, most Americans see medical computerization as a positive development.

Overall, this is good news for advocates of electronic health records.  This includes President Obama, who has made their adoption a priority of his health reform efforts and a focus of considerable spending in the stimulus bill.  Public acceptance electronic records will make widespread adoption much easier.

I suspect that in this case, the majority of Americans have it right.  Electronic health records will almost certainly improve the coordination of care and reduce medical errors.  However, the promised reduction in costs seems unlikely.  Has computerization ever made anything cheaper?  Home computers and the Internet have made many aspects of our lives much more convenient and efficient, from booking airline reservations to doing our banking, but think of the money that we spend for this convenience.  Thousands of dollars on equipment that we replace every few years and hundreds of dollars each year on Internet access.  The result in health care is likely to be no different.

These issues and others related to health information technology will be debated by a panel of experts at a symposium on the future of health information technology to be held at USP on Thursday, May 14 from 5 – 7.  The experts represent a range of key perspectives – medicine, government, industry, and academia – that are essential to the success of computerization.  Events such at this will help to sort out the issues so the health system can move ahead in this crucial sphere.  For more information, please visit http://www.usp.edu/symposium/.

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