MEDICAL RECORDS: Patient Advocates Anticipate New Online Standards
With HHS expected to release new standards governing how electronic medical records and prescriptions are formatted and exchanged, many observers are anticipating an increase in doctors using the Internet, as well as advances in areas such as prescription filling, Investors' Business Daily reports. The new HHS standards are expected to "improve the efficiency and effectiveness of health care," while also ensuring security and confidentiality, mandates of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Dr. Mark Leavitt, chair of MedicaLogic/Medscape Inc., said, "One underlying principle is that patients have the right to gain access to and see their medical records, ask for corrections, know who's seen it and control who sees it. Paper systems don't do that now." MedicaLogic/Medscape is leading an effort to put medical records online so patients and physicians can access them.
Moving Prescriptions Online
The new federal standards also should "help jump-start" the push to handle prescriptions electronically. Eliminating or circumventing doctors' "notoriously poor penmanship" is one reason many health experts advocate online prescriptions. Leavitt said that the process now is "very messy" and "definitely not secure," adding, "There are 150 million phone calls a year to medical offices from pharmacists over illegible handwriting." But Elizabeth Boehm, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc., said that electronic prescription vendors are "too focused on how to get into the doctors' office," but not on the "back end -- how to get that prescription into pharmacy systems." Once in place, online pharmacies could boost business by pushing through "an additional $1.3 billion in prescriptions through programs that increase compliance," Boehm said. But she added that there's a "lot more" online pharmacies could do, such as alerting patients to refill their prescriptions (Howell, 7/5).