In a recent issue of InformationWeek, Chad Eckes, who runs IT at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, describes his mother's treatment in an emergency room for kitchen burns where she was screaming in pain because they couldn't find her medical records to determine what painkillers were safe. He told his father, "If this had been my hospital we could have had the information in 15 seconds."
Now that's a dramatic case for electronic health records.
Eckes expects two top IT priorities in health care -- quality outcome measures and extending the availability of records outside of individual healthcare systems and sharing information between organizations.
Dr. John Beck in Sturgeon Bay stresses the importance of standards so systems can communicate, and suggests it will probably require the use of Open Source to get there. Working from a summer vacation area in Door County, he is especially interested in being able to send records back and forth to patients' winter homes in places like Arizona. Now patients often travel with folders filled with their medical histories.
He seems to be in synch with Eckes.
Elsewhere in the magazine, in a story about innovation, is the news that the Department of Veteran Affairs is a leader in electronic health records. Veteran Affairs is a world away from its reputation of a few years ago, and it looks as if electronic records is part of its push to deliver good services.
With some sort of health legislation apt to come out of Washington, electronic records, outcome measures, and error prevention are likely to be top priorities -- looks like lots of work ahead in health for IT and smart CIOs.