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Privacy, Security Concerns Prompt Health Care Information Technology

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The resolution of privacy and security concerns might prompt more physicians nationwide to adopt electronic medical records, electronic prescribing and other forms of health care information technology, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said on Monday in an address to the Nationwide Health Information Network Forum, CQ HealthBeat reports.

In response to concerns about health care IT, Leavitt recommended that patients have access to their medical records to allow them to correct any errors. He also cited the need to limit the collection, use and disclosure of patient medical records and allow patients to determine who can view the information. Leavitt said that patient medical records should remain stored in a secure database that has "reasonable" safeguards.

"Finding the balance between increased access to information and privacy is very important," Leavitt said. "Consumers shouldn't be in a position to have to accept privacy risks they don't want," he said, adding, "Each consumer should be able to choose products and services that best fit their health needs and privacy preferences."

Leavitt also said that the adoption of health care IT will depend on acceptance by physicians and other stakeholders. He said, "It's not the technology that's going to limit us. It's the sociology" (Carey, CQ HealthBeat, 12/15).

Benefits of Health Care IT Examined

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In related news, the Denver Rocky Mountain News on Monday examined how health care IT has become "one of the hottest discussion points in the debate over how to improve" the U.S. and Colorado health care systems. "Medical organizations have been studying it, private groups have been experimenting with it and experts say it could help to save some $400 billion -- and 98,000 lives -- a year in the U.S," according to the Rocky Mountain News.

Former Senate Majority Leader and HHS Secretary-designate Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) at a recent event in Denver said, "If we don't have health IT, we will not have reform" (Sealover, Denver Rocky Mountain News, 12/15).

Letter to the Editor

Increased "use of health IT can improve quality, reduce errors, empower patients and control costs through the use of electronic health records, decision support systems, telemedicine and other technologies," as well as "create jobs," William Hersh, chair of the Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology at the Oregon Health & Science University, writes in an Oregonian letter to the editor. According to Hersh, research conducted earlier this year at the university "showed that to achieve the full benefits of health IT, an additional 40,000 IT professionals will be required." He writes, "Although this seems like a large number, it will pay for itself with increased efficiency of the health care system."

"Investment in health IT also has the potential to ameliorate some of the biggest job casualties of the current economic downturn," Hersh writes, adding, "Investing in the retooling of IT professionals from other industries to work in health IT will also benefit educational programs that cater to such individuals." He writes, "An economic stimulus investing in health IT will benefit the country and our state," adding, "It will not only improve health care, but also provide individuals with new skills and put them back to work" (Hersh, Oregonian, 12/14).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.