Bush Administration Official Warns Health Care Industry To Agree on Standards for Electronic Health Records
The health care industry must agree to technical standards for electronic health records by this summer or the federal government likely will "put out a mandate," National Health Information Technology Coordinator David Brailer said at an industry conference on Wednesday, the New York Times reports.
Brailer said that the technical standards must allow physicians and specialists from different health clinics and hospitals to access patient medical records, regardless of whether different computer systems are used. In addition, he said that technical standards developed by the health care industry likely would prove more flexible and open to improvement than standards mandated by the federal government.
According to the Times, Brailer is "still wrestling with just how large and how direct a role the government should take" in efforts to implement EHRs nationwide. Agreement on technical standards for EHRs is a "vital step" to a nationwide system, the Times reports.
Brailer said, "We've got to take the risk out of purchasing" EHRs, adding that technical standards would help address concerns from physicians and hospitals that software purchased to implement EHRs will become outdated in the near future. According to Brailer, early efforts by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology, the group charged with the development of technical standards for EHRs, have shown "great promise."
However, Brailer said that the "hardest problem" remains small physician practices, which could "bring this effort to its knees." Brailer said that he has studied whether incentives -- such as federal loans, grants and increased payments from Medicare and private health insurers -- would encourage physicians to implement EHRs.
He added, "We're banking on this, until it is clear that you can't do it" (Lohr, New York Times, 2/19).