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Integrating IT into the Fastest Growing Sector of the US Economy - Healthcare

Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN), Chairman of the US House Committee on Science and Technology, has introduced a bill (H.R.2406) authorizing the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop guidelines for promoting fully integrated health information technology. The healthcare industry is only investing about 2% of its revenue in IT (financial services invests 10%), a topic I touched upon in an earlier blog, Hospital Errors: Who Pays? The Centers of Excellence who are investing revenue in IT are reaping benefits in terms of reduced errors an improved outcomes.

The debacle of chaos in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina brought home to many of us the urgency of adoption of electronic health records (EHR) so that health professionals can have ready access to patient medical histories in times of crisis. Poor communication has been found to be responsible for 80% of medical errors. It is estimated that savings of $ 77 billion (5% of annual US healthcare budget) could be realized in savings once a fully functional health IT network was established.

Dissenters are concerned that patient privacy rights will be completely eroded with big government, insurance and corporations funding and developing IT networks. Patient Privacy Rights is an organization founded by psychiatrist Deborah Peel, MD. She knows from first hand experience that people will forego medical treatment if they think others will have access to their medical records. Think about it. You think your child may be bipolar. How bad does it get before you actually consult a psychiatrist? Do you really want that label stuck on your child for the rest of his/her life? Is the label going to effect their ability to get insurance, a job or anything as an adult? We don't know. We don't really know how many people have access to all the bloody, sordid details of our lives in our medical records. So those of us smart enough to figure it out, don't trust our doctors and don't reveal any more than we have to get what we need out of an office visit. We take care of ourselves and each other and try to avoid hospitals and doctors offices as much as we can. We think those HIPAA papers we sign guarantee our privacy, but they actually grant access to our medical records to our employers and their associates.

IT implementation, like electronic voting, is a great idea as long as we take great pains to assure that patients own their own records and no one has access to them, without their express permission.

Thank you Knee Deep Photography for use of most excellent photo, White Noise.
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