Obama Promises Digitized Medical Records

President-elect Barack Obama has promised to computerize all of America's medical records within five years. He made the pledge last week in a speech at George Mason University.

"This will cut waste, eliminate red tape and reduce the need to repeat expensive medical tests," he said. "But it just won't save billions of dollars and thousands of jobs, it will save lives by reducing the deadly but preventable medical errors that pervade our health care system."

But the road to digitized medical records will be a tough and expensive one, CNN Money reported.

Today, only about 8% of the country's 5,000 hospitals and 17% of its 800,000 physicians use electronic medical records.

There is also the issue of patient privacy. Numerous hospitals have faced security issues since moving to electronic medical records. The Industry Standard reported on a security breach at a Los Angeles hospital last month.

And then there is the cost.

Studies done by Harvard, RAND and the Commonwealth Fund peg the cost of the digitization plan between at least $75 billion to $100 billion, according to the CNN article.

However, the health care industry spends $2 trillion dollars a year, so the $100 billion may be well worth the long-term savings.

David Brailer, the former National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, who worked under President Bush from 2004 to 2006, expects the computerized system to save the industry $200 billion to $300 billion a year.

"The hard part of this is that we can't just drop a computer on every doctor's desk," Brailer told CNN Money. "Getting electronic records up and running is a very technical task."

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