NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 22, 2006

Although the implementation of electronic health records is seen as a vital step toward modernizing the nation's inefficient, paper-clogged health system, technological optimists expect turmoil from the information revolution and some question whether EHRs will lower health spending as advertised, says the New York Times.

Various studies have indicated that EHRs will reduce medical errors and costs, however, when combined with the emerging field of genomics, the records will also open the door to personalized medicine, new treatments -- and, ultimately, more care.

  • That advance is by no means a bad thing, but it is also not the hoped-for fix for rising health spending. 
  • In addition, some experts and observers say EHRs and a national health information network could be "powerfully disruptive for some lucrative businesses in the industry," such as affecting so-called "blockbuster" medications and treatments. 

A national health information network would include health records sans identification and would allow health providers and others to track outcomes for treatments and devices, eventually resulting in drug companies and medical device makers making fewer decisions about treatment.

  • The technology itself is simply a software storehouse of a person's medical history, including chronic conditions, medical tests, drug prescriptions, diagnoses and doctors' comments.
  • Yet bringing pen-and-ink patient records and prescriptions into the computer age is seen as a vital step toward modernizing the nation's inefficient, paper-clogged health system.
  • Various studies say that it should reduce medical errors and costs, saving lives and saving dollars -- about $80 billion a year, according to the RAND Corporation.

Source: Steve Lohr, "Smart Care via a Mouse, but What Will It Cost?" New York Times, August 20, 2006.

For text (subscription required):


Browse more articles on Health Issues