Government Panel to Develop Digital Health Records Standards
June 14, 2005 -- A new advisory panel, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has been created to recommend ways for the private and public sectors to build an electronic health records network. The news was announced by HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt, who will chair the advisory panel. The panel consists of 17 members from government and the private sector.
For the next two to five years, the panel will recommend how to keep patient data secure, while making this information compatible across different computer systems. Government health programs like Medicare will adopt the standards set by the panel. Although many health care professionals have been slow to make the transition, advocates say that electronic health records could reduce medical errors and lower costs of health care.
The Institute of Medicine report Patient Safety: Achieving a New Standard for Care says that to significantly reduce the tens of thousands of deaths and injuries caused by medical errors every year, health care organizations must adopt information technology systems that operate seamlessly as part of a national network of health information which is accessible by all health care organizations and includes electronic records of patients' care, secure platforms for the exchange of information among providers and patients, and data standards that will make the information uniform and understandable to all. It builds on the information and policy recommendations in Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century and To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System.
Other reports from the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council have examined electronic health records and the issue of security. For the Record: Protecting Electronic Health Information describes two major types of privacy and security concerns that stem from the availability of health information in electronic form: the increased potential for inappropriate release of information held by individual organizations -- whether by those with access to computerized records or those who break into them -- and systemic concerns derived from open and widespread sharing of data among various parties. Networking Health: Prescriptions for the Internet examines ways in which the Internet may become a routine part of health care delivery and payment, public health, health education, and biomedical research.