One thing nearly everyone agrees would benefit our health care system is moving to digital, computer-based records. It’s a massive undertaking and the key would be to seamlessly link hundreds of thousands of service providers and payers together while giving patients a sense of security about their medical information. The Bush administration has talked a lot about it but failed to push Congress to budget for such a project in a big way.
But others are working on it. A report by the Markle Foundation reported in the NYTimes makes good recommendations.
The group’s report suggesting the principles that should guide the
creation of such a network made an emphatic call for open,
nonproprietary technical standards for communication across the network.
I added the emphasis because this is the very heart of a viable system.
The information on a patient inside a doctor’s office, the report
contends, must be capable of being sent across the network freely to
hospitals, laboratories, specialists, insurers and researchers, if the
promise of improved care and reduced costs are to be achieved.
The federal government, the report says, should guide the development
of a health network with a light hand by providing some initial
financing and endorsing basic technical standards, but should set up a
separate "standards and policy entity" to handle the task.
The report concluded that a national health network should not include
a central database of patient records nor should it require individuals
to have "health ID cards," as some have proposed. It said that patients
should control their own records, deciding whether their information
can be used in studies for effectiveness of certain treatments and