NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 12, 2008

Heart disease, cancer and stroke are still the leading causes of death in the United States.  Surprisingly, medical error also ranks in the top ten, higher than automobile accidents, AIDS, Alzheimer's and pneumonia, says the San Jose Mercury News.

Keep that in mind as health systems move toward electronic medical records.  Having medical records available at a mouse click could save your life, says the Mercury News. 

There are numerous potential benefits associated with electronic records:

  • They are portable: participants will have access to their medical history wherever they go, whether moving to another state or just filling out forms for a new doctor and trying to remember what pills they take.
  • They reduce costs: Americans currently spend more than $25 billion a year on health insurance paperwork, while standardized electronic records could cut that by 25 percent to 30 percent.
  • They save lives: studies show that doctors and hospitals with access to electronic records have significantly fewer deaths attributed to medical error.

Online medical records are catching on across the country:

  • Kaiser Permanente, the nation's largest health maintenance organization, announced this week that it's teaming up with Microsoft for a pilot program for patients to store their personal health records on the Web.
  • Google has been running a similar experiment in Cleveland.
  • Many hospitals in the Bay Area are working on electronic records systems.

Privacy concerns still are widespread and legitimate, yet millions of Americans regularly rely on online banking and other financial transactions.  Surely we can find a way to reasonably protect the privacy of medical records as well, says the Mercury News.

Source: "Electronic medical records will save lives," San Jose Mercury News, June 11, 2008.

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