Electronic Medical Records

While research in medicine keeps improving people’s health and
lives, the means with which patient records is kept also is
progressing.  Whereas patient information was once kept in paper form,
many healthcare facilities have switched to electronic medical
records.  Electronic medical records are patient records that are kept
in digital format.  Just like the paper records, the electronic medical
records can contain patient demographics, medical history, immunization
status, laboratory and testing information, prescription information,
appointment scheduling, claims and payment information, and patient

While it would seem the patient records in
digital format would be easier to access and backup, only about 10% of
American hospitals have adopted the electronic medical records format. 
President Bush created the Office of National Coordinator for Health
Information Technology (ONC) in 2004.  This office set up Regional
Health Information Organizations (RHIOs) in many states to help promote
the sharing of health information and Congress is working on increasing
funding.  The National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom is
very interested in getting their paper patient records converted over
to electronic medical records.  By 2010, they hope to have 60,000,000
patients transferred to electronic medical records.

Why are some
physicians and hospitals concerned about switching over to a system
that seems to be more convenient and easier to use?  Some are concerned
about the confidentiality of patient records that are maintained on an
electronic system.  When patient records are put on a computer, there
is fear that someone on the Internet who is unauthorized to view them
might be able to access those records.  Other hospitals are hesitant to
move to an electronic medical records system because they do not have
the technology or it is not readily available.  The hospital would need
software, hardware, and networking technologies to be able to share the
electronic medical records and many are just not willing to spend the
money when the paper system of patient records seems to work fine.