Electronic health record could be developed and delivered for fraction of proposed IT grant program's cost
LETTER — Posted Sept. 5, 2005
Regarding "Doctors could get federal funds for IT" (Article, Aug. 8): A Senate committee proposed $125 million for information technology grants to physicians in 2006 and an additional $150 million for fiscal year 2007. Such largesse makes one wonder if we have learned anything from the technology revolution of the last two decades. For $10 million, a team of programmers could be easily assembled to develop a comprehensive electronic health record with full features, HIPAA compliance, secure transmission and communications capabilities, billing components, tracking, prescription and appointment systems. Leftover funds could reward the programmers with a long vacation in Hawaii. For another $10 million, such software could be made available -- free of charge -- to any physician, hospital or clinic in the U.S., or the world. The servers and Internet access could be set up independently or provided through existing companies that specialize in updating their software online.
The software need only be compatible for billing purposes with existing Medicare and Medicaid programs. Private insurers would have the option of designing their systems in line with the free government software or being left behind. Such systems could even be designed to allow patients to enter their own basic health information online -- at reduced cost and without compromising security. New and advanced features, such as evidence-based performance guidelines, test ordering and tracking, and CME, could be added in subsequent years for minimal additional cost.
Up to now, our government leaders in health IT have been wasting the public's time and dime giving speeches about how difficult it will be to implement an EMR. Why are we taking such a straightforward process and turning it into a multibillion dollar, megaton gorilla? Are we so shortsighted that we are willing to sacrifice lives, efficiency and economy just to satisfy some bureaucratic urge for complexity and red tape? Intelligent professionals can make this project a reality in less than a year at a fraction of the cost.
Steven R. Zielinski, MD, JD, Hermiston, Ore.
Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2005/09/05/edlt0905.htm.