Earlier this week, President-elect Barack Obama said his administration will work to "computerize" all U.S. medical records within five years. We've known this was coming for a while. Four years ago, President Bush said most U.S. medical records would be electronic by 2014, and Microsoft's senior director of worldwide health, Dr. Bill Crounse, says we have made progress in that direction.
But the Obama-led government will push harder and make even bigger investments in electronic health record initiatives -- and not only because it would simplify and streamline records management and information sharing between doctors' offices, hospitals, insurance companies and the like. From everything I've read so far, the emphasis at this point is on the plethora of jobs such an undertaking will create, as well as the cuts in spending that will result.
However, observers also acknowledge the process won't be without obstacles. It will be expensive, and as Danville, Ky.'s Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center knows first hand, it will take time. Moreover, a National Academies of Science report reveals that many of the current efforts under way regionally may even "set back the cause" of modernizing health care.
Ars Technica's John Timmer says it best, "Simply deciding to digitize medical records may help in some regards, but it's not going to modernize medical care unless the process is handled with medicine, rather than business interest, in mind."