Electronic Medical Records Could Improve Health Care

A recent Zogby poll commissioned by Dell Incorporated, found that three quarters of Texans think that widespread use of electronic medical records would improve patient care, reduce costs and transform the health care system. Houston Public Radio's Rod Rice reports.

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Electronic-health is basically a system to make medical information available online anywhere at anytime. Dr. Eduardo Sanchez is the Director of the Institute for Health Policy at the UT School of Public Health in Houston. He says e-health would have been useful following hurricanes Rita and Katrina.

"Being able to link public health records from Louisiana with public health records from Texas would enable us to get a handle on things, that we got a handle on fairly quickly, but that would have been on them a whole lot quicker. Whether it be tuberculosis, H-I-V, S-T-D and people who are in the middle of treatment.

For individuals, both patients and physicians, Dr. Sanchez says e-health has the potential to help them make better health care decisions.

"In this world where we have more and more information, the ability to package it, the ability to have it readily turned from data to information, will make it possible for patients to make informed decisions about their own health, will enable physicians to make informed decisions about how to care for their patients, and I would go a step further and say it enable policy makers and communities to understand whets going on in their communities with aggregate information and then take action."

With this greater access to health information comes concerns about security. Linda Rebovick is Vice President of Dell Healthcare. She says information security is a top concern and that technology already exists to make personal health information as available as a patient wants it to be.

"We're working very hard to meet all the government regulations around security and privacy, and I think you'll see that a lot of this is going to be dependent on the patient providing authority and approval for their data to be transferred. If they don't want it to be transferred they'll keep it themselves. But if they do want someone like their physician have access to it then it will be their decision. So the more that we are able to do that, put the decision in the hands of the individual patient, then I think we'll see that the security can be protected."

The Texas Health Care Policy Council notes that one analysis estimates that once electronic health information is fully implemented it could save the state 14-point-two billion dollars a year.

Bio photo of Rod Rice

Rod Rice

Local Anchor, Morning Edition

Rod Rice became fascinated with radio at an early age, while sitting on his Grandfather’s lap listening to his "programs" on the big Emerson Radio...