Apr 302008

Barak Obama thinks we can cut costs on health care by forcing health care providers to move to electronic records systems.

Lowering Costs Through Investment in Electronic Health Information Technology Systems: Most medical records are still stored on paper, which makes it hard to coordinate care, measure quality or reduce medical errors and which costs twice as much as electronic claims. Obama will invest $10 billion a year over the next five years to move the U.S. health care system to broad adoption of standards-based electronic health information systems, including electronic health records, and will phase in requirements for full implementation of health IT. Obama will ensure that patients’ privacy is protected.

Never mind that one reason we haven’t done more of this already is that it does not make the most effective use of doctors’ time to do so.

And that last sentence about privacy — It seems to anticipate the article in Tuesday’s WSJ titled, “Are your medical records at risk? Amid spate of security lapses, health-care industry weighs privacy against quality care.”

But Obama doesn’t explain how he is going to ensure that patients’ privacy is protected. As it stands, his statement is the equivalent of saying he’s in favor of motherhood, apple pie, and the American flag.

One way to ensure privacy would be to make sure the people who breached the privacy of Linda Tripp’s confidential records for partisan political purposes are brought to justice. But Obama is a member of the same political party as those who made sure those violations went unpunished. Those records were not medical records, but the issue is still the same — such records can be used to intimidate and destroy political opponents.

The WSJ article says some places are trying to limit records on a need-to-know basis. For example, Lab employees only get to see lab results. So much for the stated goal of “coordinated care”.