Computerized Medical Records

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Computerized medical records in a standardized framework would clearly be a godsend for the health care industry. Doctors, nurses, and other providers would have--literally at their fingertips--24/7 up-to-date and complete patient histories, as well as both clinical guidelines and best practices information. Paperwork would drop dramatically, and health care would become more efficient. The technology is here. The need is here. It's just a matter of getting it done.

Computerized Medical Records: The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Consider the simple fact that, according to a recent Forrester Research survey, 40 percent of doctors versus 8 percent of the general population have and use a PDA. The numbers on those using a computer at work for work showed doctors at 88 percent and other consumers at 47 percent. Those figures on using broadband Internet connections at work showed 43 percent and 26 percent respectively.

One very interesting concept--in practice in El Paso, Texas and other parts of the country--is called the health smart card, which participants (the would-be patient) carry in a wallet along with, for example, a driver's license. It is nothing more than a credit card-sized plastic card embedded with a computer chip. On the chip are the patient's personal, medical, and health insurance information that might be needed in a medical situation. At the same time, fewer than five percent of physicians in the United States work with computerized medical records. Something is amiss.

The real hurdle is not information technology or medical science, but the same issue that has enveloped the profession for more than 2,000 years. A person's health and medical data are private and confidential. They "ought not to be noised abroad," as Hippocrates said in the 4th century BC. The debate on the balance between computerized medical records, patient confidentiality, and secure intranet and Internet network infrastructure continues.

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