The New York Times writes:
Across the ideological spectrum, health care experts and politicians agree that the nation’s hodgepodge of paper medical files needs to move into the digital era, so that eventually each person has an electronic health record that can travel across networks and be read by doctors, hospitals, insurers and the patients themselves. Doing so, the thinking goes, would reduce medical errors, improve health care and save money.
By now, the need to computerize a health care system that is choking on paper is beyond dispute. Health experts say that moving to electronic records, which would reduce paper handling and eliminate unnecessary or duplicative tests, could cut 10 percent or more from the nation’s $1.7 trillion a year in health care spending. And a digital system should sharply reduce medical errors, which are estimated to be responsible for 45,000 to 98,000 deaths a year – more than breast cancer, AIDS or motor vehicle accidents, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.
The electronic patient records could also open the door to a national health information network in which patient information, stripped of personal identification, could be used for national health research projects, impartial assessments of drugs’ effectiveness and other data-mining possibilities.