exas doctors support Bush’s call for electronic medical records

The Texas Medical Association supports President Bush’s push toward electronic medical records — a topic in Wednesday night’s state of the union speech.

“The President and his team have been saying that significant investment in new information technology is imperative,” TMA President Dr. Bohn Allen says. “Electronic medical records improve the quality of care, enhance patient safety, streamline physician office operations and reduce redundant services.”

He adds, however, that these systems are costly, and that doctors shouldn’t have to bear the cost alone.

“We have good reason to share those costs across the entire system because everyone benefits and shares in the savings,” Allen says.

A January 2005 study found that a well-designed system linking patient records among physicians, hospitals, health plans and others could yield $77.8 billion annually, or approximately 5 percent of the projected $1.661 trillion spent on U.S. health care in 2003, Allen says.

TMA, which is based in Austin, is the largest state medical society in the nation. It represents more than 39,500 physician and medical students.

Although many health care experts agree that electronic medical records are the way of the future, many concede that it won’t be easy to get there.

Even a company that specializes in health care information technology says it’s a difficult task to convert hospitals and doctors to electronic medical records.

“We agree with the president that the health care industry needs to use electronic, not paper, medical records. However, physicians have historically resisted the change,” says Richard Kneipper, chief administrative officer of PHNS Inc., a Dallas-based company that provides IT, medical record and electronics medical record services to hospitals.

Kneipper cautioned that the industry still does not have a “silver bullet” to automatically modernize health care systems. Hospitals across the country are spending tens of millions of dollars on new software and new applications without allocating the time and resources to first analyze and redesign their current business processes.

“Ultimately, the answer to the president’s call is not just a new software or hardware quick fix,” Kneipper says. “Unfortunately, the health care industry has a lot to learn and a long way to go to achieve this lofty goal.”

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