U.S. deployment of electronic medical records “disappointingly slow”

President Bush called for the adoption of electronic health records in his 2004 State of the Union and extolled their benefits, saying that “by computerizing health records, we can avoid dangerous medical mistakes, reduce costs, and improve care.” In 2005’s State of the Union, he reiterated his desire to seek “improved information technology to prevent medical error and needless costs.”

Recently, a Congress health subcommittee has been reviewing the efforts to deploy electronic medical records (EMRs) and has found progress to be “disappointingly slow” (according to Rep. Johnson, R-Conn.). The hearing (detailed in this CNET article) reviewed the pros and cons of moving towards paperless systems and included testimony from several health and privacy experts. Particular concern was noted for HIPAA’s lack of coverage of non-insurance health transactions; this means that medical records used in these transactions are not governed by the strict security and privacy requirements. It was noted that the lack of a uniform federal privacy standard may also make the deployment of an EMR system much more complicated.

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