Paperless Medical Records

Friday, March 7th 2008, 11:24 am
By: News On 6

What would happen if your doctor's office no longer used paper records to chart your medical history, but instead put it all in the computer?

News On 6 reporter Alex Cameron reports state Senator Jim Wilson said what could happen is pretty remarkable.

"We'll save the state a couple hundred million dollars, we'll save four or five hundred lives every year," Wilson said.

Wilson is among a group of state lawmakers pushing legislation that would encourage more health care providers to store their medical records electronically, and then agree to allow those records to be shared across an existing medical data network.

"So when you see a physician, a new one that doesn't know you, doesn't know your history, he or she will have access to your prescriptions, what's happening in your life and so on," Wilson said. "Such record sharing could cut down on redundant tests and improve patient outcomes, but putting personal information on a computer network raises questions of security."

Lou Carmichael is CEO of Oklahoma Community Health Services. She said at their clinics, they are in the process of switching to an electronic filing system.

"It will be the wave of the future, it is already here," Carmichael said.

Carmichael sees the potential benefits, but said it may take time to convince all health care providers that the benefits outweigh the costs, the cost of the system itself, and the potential cost of lost privacy.

"I mean privacy is a right that we need to really cherish, but the benefit to having information available to who needs it, those are kind of a balancing act, and I'm not sure we've decided that," Carmichael said.

Senator Wilson said there is already a medical data sharing network in place in eastern Oklahoma that was set up with federal grant money and which could be used statewide. It's called SmartNet. He said it's just as secure as using paper records.