Medical Records Go Digital

Kathleen Kingsbury had an article in TIME on March 17th:

The complex field of health-care information may soon be a little more streamlined. On Tuesday, Chicago-based electronic medical records provider Allscripts announced it has agreed to merge with British rival Misys PLC in a cash-and-stocks deal worth more than $1 billion.

The new firm, which will operate under the name Allscripts, will become one of the largest players in the U.S.’s $20 billion electronic health-record industry. In its present form, Allscripts manages data for more than 40,000 American physicians. Once the firm merges with Misys, that figure will treble to 150,000 — or roughly one-third of all practicing doctors in the U.S.

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In late February, Google announced plans to launch an online database where patients can easily store and maintain health information. The website, called Google Health, mirrors similar efforts by rival Microsoft and Revolution Health Group, led by AOL founder Steve Case. All three products will allow patients to access records from anywhere in the world, letting the user upload medical records from one health-care provider and then easily share them with another physician or hospital — a capability more and more health-care providers are looking to adopt. Tullman says Allscripts plans to collaborate with both Microsoft and Google, particularly in the area of providing patients with prescription data, and emphasizes that such initiatives should further alleviate privacy worries associated with electronic records. “We’re putting patients for the first time in charge of their own records,” Tullman says. “They’re adding information to a vault only they can unlock.”

Critics often note that electronic records leave sensitive data vulnerable to hackers or system failures. Allscripts customer Dr. Jim Morrow, however, argues his patients’ privacy is actually more secure. Morrow is CIO of Atlanta’s North Fulton Family Medicine group, whose 11 doctors adopted electronic records in 1998. “With paper, what’s to stop the night janitor or front desk clerk from reading your record?” Morrow says. “Our charts all require passwords to limit access.”

Full story – TIME

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