The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services visited Iowa Thursday to talk about the need to use technology to make medical records more accessible. Secretary Michael Leavitt says the health care system isn’t taking full advantage of the available technology.
He says 85%-percent of all medical records are still paper, "That has a quite profound impact on the cost of medicine," Leavitt says, "not only costs more money, but often results in more medical mistakes." Leavitt says electronic records could be called up instantly and answer many questions for patients.
Leavitt says you currently walk into a physicians office and they hand you a clipboard and you fill out the same information over and over again. He says many people don’t remember all their past medical information and that leads to repeated information, and you can’t access the records or contact doctors by e-mail. Leavitt says Medicare is looking at a program to encourage more doctors to go electronic.
He says right now many doctors are reluctant to invest in the electronic records because they have to make the investment and it’s the patients who benefit. Leavitt says the government wants to create a system where doctors are rewarded for the systems and then can use them in a way that increases quality.
Leavitt says Health and Human Services hopes the program will move more doctors ahead. He says they want a group of physicians, potentially in Iowa, use the records so they can learn how to share the records in a demonstration project. One of the issues raised about electronic records is the concern over hackers and health information being compromised.
Leavitt says everyone is concerned about their financial and medical information and systems have to be developed to protect the data, as it’s a problem for almost everything that’s dealt with in the information age. Leavitt spoke with Radio Iowa prior to a visit to Des Moines University.