Leavitt Says Electronic Health Records Could Reduce Costs, Medical Errors
Adopting electronic health records is an "economic imperative" that could reduce medical errors and health care costs, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said on Monday in a talk with about 160 medical faculty members at Stanford University School of Medicine, the San Jose Mercury News reports. In a phone interview before his talk, Leavitt said, "This is really about how we maintain health and at the same time maintain the momentum of our economy" (Landhuis, San Jose Mercury News, 5/24).
He noted that current health care costs account for 15.3% of the nation's gross domestic product, compared to 5.1% in 1960. In addition, Leavitt said technology could be used to track off-label uses of prescription drugs to educate patients and doctors about results.
Leavitt said he hopes national health information technology standards will be developed soon to facilitate easier access to medical records for health care providers and consumers. He said that the government should not mandate technology changes in health care but that government should encourage health care providers and companies to collaborate on such developments (Murphy, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/24).
Leavitt said the Bush administration has called for electronic health records to be available nationwide within 10 years.
In related news, adverse reactions to prescription drugs caused by medical errors are "about as common in computerized setting as in noncomputerized ones," according to a study published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the Mercury News reports.
Lead author Jonathan Bedeker of the University of Utah School of Medicine said the study highlights the need to develop computer systems that more effectively assess how harmful a medical error can be (San Jose Mercury News, 5/24).
The AP/Detroit News on Tuesday examined physicians' "slow" adoption of EHRs despite encouragement from the federal government, health insurers and consumer advocates. Between 10% and 16.4% of the nations physicians were using EHRs in 2002, according to a study published by RAND.
David Brailer, national health information technology coordinator, said the cost of new technology and retraining staff hampers adoption rates for some physicians. Brailer said small physician practices would be hesitant to implement EHRs until standards are developed and costs decrease.
David Kibbe, director of the American Academy of Family Physicians' center for health care IT, said a recent survey of the academy's 105,000 members found that about 15% currently use EHRs. Another 30% to 40% are "looking very seriously" at adopting EHRs in the next few years, according to Kibbe (Callahan, AP/Detroit News, 5/24).