New Technologies Streamline Health IT System; Electronic Medical Records Raise Privacy Issues
The Associated Press: Although many healthcare providers are making the jump to computerized medical records, an "e-chart stored in one doctor's computer too often can't be read by another's across town." Surescripts, "the country's largest network for paperless prescribing," is expanding "so that doctors around the country can choose to share medical reports, X-rays and other health data over its network much as they send e-prescriptions to drugstores today, regardless of what competing brand of computerized health records they use." Currently 200,000 doctors use the network for e-prescribing. "The move is among the largest of a growing number of efforts to connect electronic medical records" as "doctors and hospitals are scrambling to qualify for some of the billions in federal money available starting next year to help defray the costs of investing in e-health" (Neergaard, 10/25).
The Beacon-News: "Since Apple's iPad hit the market in April, doctors at Chicago area hospitals are increasingly using the hot-selling tablet as a clinical tool." The iPads are being used by emergency room doctors "to order lab tests and medication," by plastic surgeons "to show patients what they might look like after surgery," and by medical residents who need "a quick reference to look up drug interactions and medical conditions." The device can also be used to view electronic medical records, X-rays, EKGs, and other lab tests. "Within the next month, the University of Chicago Medical Center plans to provide iPads to all of its internal medicine residents, expanding on a pilot program launched earlier this year. Similarly, Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood has given iPads to all of its orthopedic residents as part of a pilot program." Physicians say the portability of the device helps overcome some of the inconveniences of switching to a system of electronic medical records (Thomas, 10/25).
The (Minneapolis) Star Tribune: "HealthPartners is the latest group to start a low-cost online diagnosis and treatment service," called Virtuwell, "aimed at people with simple ailments such as coughs, colds, ear pain and urinary tract infections." The service "is staffed by nurse practitioners and costs up to $40 per consultation, compared with about $53 at a retail clinic and about $115 to see a primary care doctor. Patients who answer a series of online questions should get a diagnosis within 30 minutes." The service is currently available only in Minnesota, but the company "hopes to expand it nationally." Other Minnesota insurers have developed competing online services, such as UnitedHealth Group's NowClinic service (Yee, 10/25).
Dayton Daily News: "The family of Brennan Eden, the Mason man seriously injured in a sensational crash on Interstate 675 that drew national attention, said it has filed a federal complaint, concerned his medical records may have been inappropriately viewed by Miami Valley Hospital employees." The potential violation "underscores the challenges of maintaining patient privacy in the age of electronic medical records. Hospitals and other health care providers face far bigger penalties for privacy violations than they would have prior to February 2009. On Aug. 28, a privacy official discussing new patient privacy policies with hospital managers said about 200 hospital employees had accessed Brennan's medical records" (Sutherly, 10/23).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.