To the Editor:
“Miles to Go on E-Health Records” cites the financial incentives provided in the stimulus package for doctors and hospitals to adopt electronic medical records and highlights the need for interoperability.
I want to draw your attention to the financing that was also included in the recovery package for the National Institute of Standards and Technology to help establish standards that ensure interoperability and security of health information technology systems. (The institute played a similar role in the transition to online banking.)
The recovery package also includes provisions for training health care professionals to use the new systems.
Instead of being discouraged by the low rate of adoption of health information technology, I see an opportunity. Establishing the standards for interoperability and security will be more effective if it’s done on the front end, before all doctors’ offices have systems in place that can’t talk to one another.
In the current system, the patient is the recordkeeper. Every appointment begins with questions about medical history. The quality of care the patient receives may depend on his (or his family’s) ability to answer that question, including recalling detailed information about drug names and dosages.
As our population ages and we see more specialists, this problem will grow. Maintaining the status quo is not an option. The American public and our dedicated health care professionals deserve better.
Washington, April 2, 2009
The writer is chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology.