NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 30, 2006

As insurers begin to cover the costs of telemedicine, the use of e-mail and electronic medical records (EMR) will continue to grow; transforming the way Americans interact with the health care system, says Devon Herrick, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis. 

While e-mailing will enable patients to correspond more easily with doctors and allow remote monitoring of patients, the greatest impact could be through EMR.  Reports have found that it could save the industry an estimated $77-81 billion per year, a large sum considering total national health care expenditures were $1.9 trillion in 2004.

But while transferring personal health information electronically--whether in e-mails or EMR-- may be cost effective, it also presents its own set of challenges, including:

  • Ensuring adherence to privacy standards for electronic health communication to encourage more widespread use of electronic data interchange in health care.
  • Preventing fraud such as impersonators accessing other people's information, or third parties being billed for patients they have never seen.
  • Reconciling different technologies so that independent EMR systems can talk with each other more easily

Health care companies have begun to address these problems and are increasing the efficiency and safety through which their internet records are stored and accessed.  In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is working to create a National Health Information Network (NHIN) -- a national database linking patients' records with health care providers, insurers, pharmacies, labs, and claims processors--by 2009.

Source: Devon Herrick, "Telemedicine Provides Benefits, but Security and Privacy Risks Abound," Heartland Institute, June, 2006


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