Benefits of President Obama’s Health-care Information System Plan
The benefits of a fully computerized health record system in President Elect Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan
President-elect Barack Obama recently spoke at George Mason University on the economy and his plans for it. One of his main promises was that he would take steps to computerize paper health records within a period of five years. This according to Obama would eliminate red tape while minimizing waste, medical errors and the repetition of costly medical tests. This is certainly a good move, but what are the challenges and obstacles faced by this initiative? What are the benefits that would be gained through this venture?
Challenges and obstacles
There are many challenges and obstacles in the way of fully computerizing health-care information systems throughout USA. These are
1] High Costs – According to estimates by Harvard and other organizations, the initiative could cost up to 100 billion dollars over the expected 10 year implementation period.
2] The need for specialized labor and effort – Setting up and maintaining an electronic health records system will be a highly technical task that will require specialized labor and skills. It would require the employment of large numbers of health information technology professionals, who unfortunately are hard to find at the moment. Because of this, many Information Technology professionals will need to be provided with specialized training for employment in the healthcare system.
3] Patient privacy concerns – Patient’s medical records need to be kept private because of their sensitive nature. A computerized health record system using EMR software raises new challenges to privacy of the records such as hackers and computer failures.
4] HIPAA compliance Issues – Many of the currently existing online health record systems do not comply with HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act], the American health privacy law.
5] The current state of medical records keeping – Only around 17% of physicians and 8% of hospitals utilize computerized health record systems at the moment. The majority still use paper record systems, hence there is much to be done in this regard.
However, tremendous benefits are expected if the above mentioned challenges and concerns are successfully resolved. One of the main objections to Obama’s plan has been its cost. However the healthcare industry spends around $2 trillion every year whereas Obama’s plan would cost $100 billion to implement according to estimates. So it is a small amount when compared with the expected benefits that the move can bring. Moreover the computerization of the health record system can save the healthcare industry up to 300 billion dollars per year according to some expert estimates. Another benefit is that a number of new jobs will be created, as personnel will be needed to implement and maintain a computerized health record keeping system. Some estimates place the amount of jobs generated at up to 212,000. The system will standardize health record keeping and make tracking a patient’s health data across providers easier. There will also be increased savings for every US family as health care costs will be reduced.
So is this initiative a giant leap forward? Or a shot in the dark? Considering the state that the economy is, we need innovative and forward thinking plans even if they involve taking risks or overcoming many challenges. Moreover, the future is digital. Everything we have seen indicates a switch to computerized systems. Why should the system of keeping medical health records be any different? This initiative will certainly increase healthcare quality and reduce healthcare costs if all goes well.