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New health record system lets patients take charge of their privacy

Friday, December 15, 2006 by: Jerome Douglas
Tags: health records, health care system, patient privacy


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(NewsTarget) This past week, five larger employers in the U.S. launched a computerized health record system for employees. The hope is that the new system will help set a standard for America's disorganized health care system - and save money and lives.

The plan calls for patients to control who can see their records, which they can access even if they change jobs or doctors. The five companies taking part in the new health care system's launch will make the system available to their collective 2.5 million employees and retirees next year.

The individual medical records for each employee will be available using a secure website, and the system's designers hope the electronic record keeping will reduce administrative costs and medical errors. Craig Barrett -- CEO of Intel Corp. -- said "It's a lifelong, portable health record it's not something that will be held by employers or by insurance companies."

The five companies hope to demonstrate that the idea works well enough to attract other users and improve on the current system. The current health records system exists largely on paper and is scattered among the files of the doctors, hospitals and other providers who have treated a particular patient.

In addition to Intel, the other companies that have signed onto the plan are Applied Materials, energy conglomerate BP, mail and software specialist Pitney-Bowes and retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc. The experimental system -- called Dossia -- has been developed by the non-profit Omnimedix Institute.

Dossia uses the Connecting for Health Common Framework electronic systems developed by a collaboration of industry, consumer advocates, medical groups, insurers and non-profit groups that offers a way for different computer systems to read the same records, while providing secure access and privacy.

The current system of paper medical records in different locations without any kind of centralized location is not only cumbersome, but dangerous. In the U.S., a patient must fill out new forms and remember previous conditions, medications and other health history. The stationary nature of this information makes access and updating dangerous in certain situations, if not all of them.

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