And the Voters Demand. . . Electronic Medical Records?

Over half of Americans think the next U.S. President should support. . .access to electronic medical records.

Compared to gas prices, the economy and the war in Iraq, this is, needless to say, a fairly minor issue. Even within the issue of healthcare reform, access to EMRs, as digital medical records are known, it’s small potatoes.

Yet a survey released by Kaiser-Permanente at the Information Therapy Conference in Washington shows that a majority of Americans agreed that providing people with online access to their own medical records should be a "top priority" for the next US President.

It’s tough to say what this data point really might mean. But my guess is it suggests people are frustrated by the mess of papers and records that make patienthood so difficult these days. Whether federal support for a nationwide program is the only or wisest solution to this problem is another question, of course. 

The good news: The conference was full of presentations of different
programs that private groups (like Kaiser Permanente) and public
agencies (HHS paying doctors up to $50,000 to buy IT equipment for
their offices) are pursuing to electrify the medical system, in
particular personal records.

And of course Google and Microsoft have famously gotten into the
business of giving people tools to make and keep their medical records.

But what do the candidates think about this issue? Their responses are consistent with their general policy inclinations.

Barack Obama is for direct government spending. From his site:

Most medical records are still stored on paper, which makes
it hard to coordinate care, measure quality or reduce medical errors
and which costs twice as much as electronic claims. Obama will invest
$10 billion a year over the next five years to move the U.S. health
care system to broad adoption of standards-based electronic health
information systems, including electronic health records, and will
phase in requirements for full implementation of health IT. Obama will
ensure that patients’ privacy is protected.

John McCain makes a broader, less specific and less enthusiastic
statement of support, with big wink-and-nod to "stakeholders," as it
were, who oppose federalized medical delivery generally. From his site:

We should promote the rapid deployment of 21st century information
systems and technology that allows doctors to practice across state

It’s foolish to think that a micro-issue within the macro-issue of
healthcare reform could drive a single vote in November. But whoever
becomes the next President should take note: People are frustrated with
the day-to-day mess of healthcare.

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3 replies »

  1. Electronic medical records have many problems.They are not the panacea for improving health care that politicians put forward.There main use seems to be documentation for billing purposes.They add incredible bulk to charts and they actually interfer with care and make it hard to follow a patients course. They are not the savior of our health problems.