Electronic Health Records Could Be Norm in Ten Years

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

"If we do a survey where we use a meaningful definition of electronichealth records, some very basic functions, right now only 14-percentof doctors across the country have electronic health records that meeteven this minimum level of function. That's just something we just have to improve. Even hospitals, where they often are seen as having morecapital 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 sayshe's on schedule to meet a 2014 deadline.

"We have made more progress in the last 3-4 years than we did in thelast 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, butI do believe that we will meet the 2014 target. Ten years from now I thinkwe will be using these probably universally."

Kolodner says an electronic system could cut down on errors andimprove both care and efficiency. He says concerns about privacyand security are understandable and doesn't expect everyoneto adapt all at once.

"The way that we're going to make progress isn't by having everybodybuy 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 kindsof things that everybody would like to, so that the others who rightfullyshould be somewhat skeptical can then join us as we go forward."

Dr. Kim Dunn is a practicing internist and is involved in testing howelectronic medical records could improve clinical care here in Houston. She says one of the problems is medical students aren'ttaught how to use electronic records.

"In medical school, you're not trained with it. Residency, you're nottrained with it. The key technology is the paper. That's what you'retrained in using. So you've got a training issue. Doctors haven't beentrained in e-mail and haven't been trained extensively in telemedicineand 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 healthinformation network through a link on our website, KUHF.org

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