|WASHINGTON – In an effort to create a national system of secure, interoperable electronic health care records, the House Science and Technology Committee passed U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon’s health information technology legislation.
“Widespread use of electronic health care records would save patients and providers tens of billions of dollars and reduce errors by giving providers access to up-to-date patient records,” said Gordon, the committee’s chairman.
“Instead, most patients today find themselves constantly filling out forms, repeating medical histories and reciting lists of medications. The repetition wastes time and effort, and it’s risky because patients often do not or cannot keep accurate records, especially in emergency situations.”
Gordon’s bill, H.R. 2406, authorizes the National Institute of Standards and Technology to increase efforts to integrate the broad use of information technology in America’s health care system. The committee’s approval sends the bill to the full House of Representatives for consideration.
The bill would authorize NIST to create guidelines for integrating information technology into the health care system. The legislation aims to establish a nationwide IT health care system that would create a master medical record for patients that would be accessible to them anytime they move, change doctors or visit a specialist.
“Our health care system needs a uniform, efficient way to maintain patients’ medical records while protecting their privacy,” Gordon said. “Effective use of IT can reduce errors within the health care field and provide doctors with more accurate, accessible information.”
In addition to the wasted time patients and medical practitioners spend duplicating paperwork, inaccurate medical records also put patients at risk of being improperly diagnosed or prescribed incorrect medications. According to the Institute of Medicine, about 98,000 patients die each year in hospitals due to improper diagnosis, incorrect prescriptions and other medical errors.
Gordon said one reason for the delay in bringing IT to the health care industry has been the lack of interoperable record systems that also ensure privacy and data security. Doctors and hospitals are reluctant to invest in systems that are not interoperable with systems owned by other health care providers.
“Unless technical standards are developed to ensure interoperability, privacy, and security of electronic health care records, little will happen to move us forward,” he said. “In the IT field, NIST already has worked cooperatively with the financial, e-business and manufacturing sectors to ensure the interoperability, security, and integrity of their IT systems. NIST can do the same for the health care field.”