Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=102591
Story Retrieval Date: 5/25/2013 3:24:00 PM CST
As medical records move from hospital basements to the Internet, privacy remains a top concern. A survey released Tuesday looked at what hospitals and clinics are doing about it. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society gathered 155 responses on the topic, mostly from senior IT executives. Here are a few key findings:
• More than half of respondents said their organizations devote less than three percent of their overall IT budget to information security.
• 86 percent keep audit logs of each access to patient health records.
• Most believe that the threat of medical identity threat at their organization is low. About 20 percent reported they had at least one known case of medical identity theft at their organization.
WASHINGTON – Poor penmanship kills people.
Doctors are ridiculed for sloppy handwriting, but illegible prescriptions can cause serious mix-ups. More than a million Americans are harmed by medication errors every year, and hard-to-read instructions are part of the problem.
All the more reason for doctors to ditch paper for computers, said health advisors for the presidential campaigns of Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain at a panel discussion. Both stressed that health information technology saves money, along with lives – but they disagreed on how the government can push the health industry toward a more computerized future.
The goal is for hospitals and clinics to abandon bulging file folders and advance to electronic medical records that can be shared across state lines.
Obama’s plan is to spend $50 billion over the next five years to promote the use of health IT. How that money gets doled out is still up in the air, but suggestions include paying physicians extra to use software and speeding up the certification time for new systems. Health IT “squeezes out inefficiencies” so the investment would pay for itself in the long-term, according to Obama advisor Deb Mizeur.
McCain’s camp said putting more money on the table is not the right approach.
“All you will see is a long line of lobbyists going out the door trying to get a piece of that pie,” said Jay Khosla, senior health policy advisor for McCain.
The McCain plan doesn’t list specific dollar amounts for health IT spending, but Khosla said a top priority would be forging public-private partnerships between government and health care institutions that are already ahead of the curve.
“The private sector in some instances is light years ahead of the federal government when it comes to health IT,” he said.
While Obama’s and McCain’s advisors traded barbs on expanding health coverage for Americans, both agreed during the Tuesday forum that the government has a role in modernizing medical records.
The most prestigious names in medicine poured fortunes into health information technology years ago, but many small offices still depend upon paper-based records.
Your neighborhood pizza parlor may use software to track orders. Your local clinic probably doesn’t.
A July study by the New England Journal of Medicine found that only 13 percent of clinic-based physicians use electronic medical records. That’s partially due to the high cost of software. Some doctors also worry that computers complicate their already hectic workday.
That number is bound to go up even if the government doesn’t intervene, according to John Sheils, senior vice president of the Lewin Group, a Virginia-based health care consulting firm. Sheils led an independent analysis of the candidates’ potential health care policies.
There’s already motivation to adopt health IT, he said, so federal funding is just a way to accelerate the change.
The Lewin study estimated that Obama’s $50 billion investment in health IT would yield $111 billion in savings over ten years – savings across the entire health system from city governments to insurance companies. The Lewin Group could not calculate savings for McCain’s plan since it lacks details on funding.
Sheils said he doubts the $50 billion figure would become reality after the election, given an Obama victory. There would be too many obstacles to securing funds in Congress, he said.