#10 Private Sector National Health Information Exchange

Overview

Modern medicine has robots that assist with urological procedures and 320-slice CT scans to peer into the heart, and by the time you reach a certain age, terabytes of your personal health-care information are already stored on the servers of hospitals, insurance companies, and pharmacies throughout the country.

Then in this age of Internet health information searches, online banking and shopping, why is it that when you walk into a doctor’s office, you are handed a clipboard and asked to fill out paper forms that ask about your medical history? Why is medical record keeping in the United States still back in the early 20th
century?

Things are starting to change, albeit slowly. A comprehensive system of electronic health records that link consumers, general practitioners, specialists, hospitals, pharmacies, nursing homes, and insurance
companies is in the process of being established. Primarily a private-sector effort, this computerized system has the potential to replace paper-based medical files with digitized records of patients’ complete medical history.

Many patient records are now buried in paper files in doctors’ offices. But imagine being able to find, access, and store your personal medical records as easily as you access your e-mail, anywhere and anytime. Potential
advantages of personal health records are many: A lifetime view of your history will allow
doctors to focus on preventive strategies, rather than just treating disease.

In addition, skyrocketing health care costs, now approaching $2 trillion annually, will be significantly reduced for employers, insurance companies, and the government just through the elimination of administrative overhead.
Moreover, many of the 98,000 deaths that occur annually from medical mistakes and adverse drug reactions can be avoided once the full patient records of patients became easily accessible for all treating doctors.

Over the course of the past decade, the Internet has helped transform life in America, changing the way we get our daily news, and how we work, bank, shop, and travel. The good news is that many companies are now developing promising systems for storing digital health records that will allow people to electronically collect, view, manage, and share copies of their health information.

“We think the ideal model is the consumer driven approach, where the consumer is in control of what information is gathered and stored at a central repository and who they choose to share it with,” says Joe Turk, Director of Information Technology at the Cleveland Clinic. “Personal health records will certainly be revolutionary in health care management, helping to reduce errors, improve health, and save money.”

Where Are They Now

This is a comprehensive system of electronic health records that connects, stores, and shares clinical data from hospitals, physician offices, pharmacies, labs, and other sources to help improve communication flow between healthcare providers, patients, and clinicians. It has the potential to revolutionize our healthcare management by reducing the risk of medical errors, lowering costs, and increasing the overall quality of healthcare.

Although primarily a private sector effort, this computerized system is gaining increased public interest. With the enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which places a very strong emphasis on the importance of health information exchange, significant ARRA funds have been spent in support of health information exchange efforts. In 2014, congress allocated $548 million to states to modernize how patient health information is stored and shared. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology still provides standards and specifications to support the formal organizations that exist to provide both form and function to independent and governmental/regional level health information exchange efforts. Forecasting for the 2017 Fiscal Year predicts that Congress may give Health and Human Services more freedom to work on private efforts to keep patient data consistent in order to secure the exchange of electronic health information.

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