Electronic Health Records Could Be Norm in Ten Years

The man in charge of building a national network that can easily and securely share electronic medical records says the effort is now well on its way to becoming reality. The network, commissioned by President Bush in 2004, will establish a uniform architecture for storing and sharing health records. Jack Williams reports.

Named as the national coordinator for Health Information Technology
in 2007, Dr. Robert Kolodner has his hands full. Despite the electronic
and internet age, most doctors and hospitals still deal with paper medical

“If we do a survey where we use a meaningful definition of electronic
health records, some very basic functions, right now only 14-percent
of doctors across the country have electronic health records that meet
even this minimum level of function. That’s just something we just have
to improve. Even hospitals, where they often are seen as having more
capital to buy these things, are at 11-percent.”

Instead of trying to track down paper records from different health
care providers, with an electronic exchange, a person’s health
records would move from doctor to doctor with them. Kolodner says
he’s on schedule to meet a 2014 deadline.

“We have made more progress in the last 3-4 years than we did in the
last 10-20 years, we’ve been working on this for that long and there’s
been tremendous strides forward. We still have quite a ways to go, but
I do believe that we will meet the 2014 target. Ten years from now I think
we will be using these probably universally.”

Kolodner says an electronic system could cut down on errors and
improve both care and efficiency. He says concerns about privacy
and security are understandable and doesn’t expect everyone
to adapt all at once.

“The way that we’re going to make progress isn’t by having everybody
buy in at once, but it’s by getting a sufficient number and breadth of
individuals and organizations to begin working together to begin
using it and showing that by using it, we’re able to accomplish the kinds
of things that everybody would like to, so that the others who rightfully
should be somewhat skeptical can then join us as we go forward.”

Dr. Kim Dunn is a practicing internist and is involved in testing how
electronic medical records could improve clinical care here in
Houston. She says one of the problems is medical students aren’t
taught how to use electronic records.

“In medical school, you’re not trained with it. Residency, you’re not
trained with it. The key technology is the paper. That’s what you’re
trained in using. So you’ve got a training issue. Doctors haven’t been
trained in e-mail and haven’t been trained extensively in telemedicine
and so until that actually becomes a part of the fabric and culture of
clinical care, we’re not going to get there.”

She says improved care and electronic dialogue between a
doctor and patient should be the ultimate goal of the network.
You can find out more about the nationwide health
information network through a link on our website,


Jack Williams

Jack Williams

News Director and Afternoon Host

Jack Williams is HPM’s news director and afternoon host on News 88.7. He’s been with the organization since 2000, including stints as a reporter and news anchor. Jack leads the largest public radio newsroom in Texas and has overseen significant growth in HPM’s news division since he became news director...

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