Obama: Health IT Will Be First Step in Health Care Reform Efforts

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Yesterday, President Obama cited health IT investments as "preliminary steps" in broader health care overhaul efforts, Healthcare IT News reports. Obama delivered the keynote address during the annual conference of the American Medical Association.

He said, "First, we need to upgrade our medical records by switching from a paper to an electronic system of record keeping." Obama noted that the federal economic stimulus law already allocated funds for electronic health record adoption.

The president also discussed how EHR systems could benefit patients, saying, "You shouldn't have to tell every new doctor you see about your medical history or what prescriptions you're taking. You shouldn't have to repeat costly tests. All that information should be stored securely in a private medical record so that your information can be tracked from one doctor to another."

In addition, Obama said health IT would reduce administrative costs and provide health care providers with more information. He said an EHR system "will tell you, the doctors, what drugs a patient is taking so you can avoid prescribing a medication that could cause a harmful interaction. It will prevent the wrong dosages from going to a patient. It will reduce medical errors, it's estimated, that lead to 100,000 lives lost unnecessarily in our hospitals every year."

In his speech, Obama also spoke about the need for improved disease prevention and chronic disease management, which both could benefit from health IT tools.

However, Obama said that although investments in EHRs and preventive care are important, they are just the first steps in curbing "the epidemic of rising costs in this country" (Manos, Healthcare IT News, 6/16).

Obama also spoke about other health reform issues, such as a government-run public insurance option and reduced physician liability in malpractice suits (Connolly, Washington Post, 6/16).


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