President wants electronic records in place within 10 years

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President Bush recently called for the implementation of personal electronic medical records (EMRs) that could be accessed and added to by health-care providers with the patient's authorization, reported American Medical News (5/17/04). The goal is to have a secure electronic system to store patients' medical information within 10 years.

During a speech before the American Association of Community Colleges, the president outlined his vision: EMRs—which store a patient's history, prescription information, and other data, such as laboratory test results or x-rays—would be available online for use by a patient's numerous health-care providers.

While physicians and health groups are applauding the President's idea, questions about funding for the project have been expressed. "One thing we don't want to see is an unfunded mandate that forces physicians into somehow having to purchase hardware or software to accomplish this, especially in the current environment where the pressures on physicians are so great," American Medical Association Trustee and gynecologist Joseph M. Heyman told AMNews.

An initial investment of up to $50,000 per physician is needed to implement an EMR system, according to a study by the California Healthcare Foundation. The initial cost can be recouped within a few years, with physicians saving $20,000 per year. In addition, EMRs can help reduce redundant testing, eliminate medical errors, and prevent adverse effects caused by conflicting courses of treatment.

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