USA Today Examines Efforts To Increase Use of Electronic Medical Records
USA Today on Tuesday examined the health care industry's efforts to increase the use of medical information technology and transfer patient records to electronic-based systems. Such technology is used by less than 20% of U.S. primary care physicians, compared with 90% in Sweden and the Netherlands. While IT investments have cost the health care industry billions of dollars, Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers said medical technology advancements could cut the annual $1.6 trillion in U.S. health care costs by 25%. However, doctors and hospitals have been slow to adopt new technologies because of concerns about declines in physicians' initial productivity while they learn new systems; high costs, which can reach about $10,000 per doctor per year, according to some estimates; low initial savings for hospitals and doctors, with two-thirds of the early savings "flow[ing] to insurance companies and others"; a lack of common standards across the "huge, fragmented industry"; and concerns about privacy protection, USA Today reports. John Glaser, chief information officer of Boston-based Partners HealthCare System said that "the economics don't work" for many physicians. Glaser added that recent funding and policy efforts have helped the cause, but wide-scale adoption will not occur until the federal government changes its Medicare and Medicaid policies to support more technological integration. Dr. David Brailer, recently appointed by President Bush as the first national coordinator of health information technology, on Wednesday will announce the government's initiatives to "nudge the industry forward" in developing medical IT capabilities, USA Today reports (Schmit, USA Today, 7/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.