E-Health Vision Takes Shape; ‘Easier Said Than Done,’ Brits Say
President Obama has pushed electronic medical records as a key reform tool, though it's unclear exactly how the system incentivized by stimulus bill funding would take shape in the U.S. In Britain, NPR's Planet Money blog reports, "the current battle over these records in the U.K. shows, figuring out a system may be harder and more expensive than it looks." The proposed "spine," a nationwide data system that exchanges information between doctors, "has been plagued by cost overruns and delays," such as a contractual dispute last year and a report that suggested exploring alternatives to the "monolithic" structure. Meanwhile, the Department of Health stands by the "spine," saying patients benefit from the coordination, and U.S.-based tech companies and poised to "get in on the business," NPR reports (Kenney, 8/12).
A group of American health technology experts recently discussed their vision of the U.S. version of e-health: "Patients go online to figure out which emergency room is least crowded. They don't have to fill out medical-history forms because their information is accessible with a few keystrokes. Specialists could see people or view their tests from hundreds of miles away on a high-definition-video feed," according to McClatchy-Tribune/The Philadelphia Inquirer. The stimulus funding around $30 billion and other pilot programs encourage systems where "doctors at hospitals across the country will be able to access electronic records instantly" (Horowitz, 8/12).
The Social Security Administration, meanwhile, plans to use new electronic systems to gather data about applicants seeking benefits directly from their doctors, InformationWeek reports. "Currently, the bulk of the information the agency receives about applicants' medical conditions is provided manually, using paper-based medical records and other documents." The electronic method has sped up applications in areas where the administration has tested the program (McGee, 8/12).
Also in the news, Cerner Corp., a Missouri-based information technology firm, "recently replaced Sun Microsystems on a trio of elite stock indexes by Nasdaq Stock Market, the world's largest stock exchange," the Liberty (Mo.) Tribune reports. Cerner's Web site notes that its continued growth has been fueled in part by the technology needs of hospitals and clinics, of which it is the "leading supplier." Its chief executive is also pitching even broader efforts to increase health technology as part of the reform effort. Cerner earned $43.7 million in the second quarter of this year, a 24 percent increase over the same period last year (Weikal, 8/13).