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September 15, 2010: News, Research & Events from the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
Baker Institute Update: Will computerized medical records make you healthier?

Will computerized medical records make you healthier?

The next time you go to the doctor, don't be surprised if she pulls out a laptop computer. Instead of scribbling your temperature, symptoms and medical history on a paper medical chart, she'll probably type her notes while you speak. And, with a touch of a key, the visit will become part of your electronic medical record, accessible to anyone in the office with a password.

The scene is a logical step for a 21st century medical practice looking to improve health care and efficiency — goals also shared by the federal government, which has set aside $20 billion in stimulus funds to build a national network of electronic medical records.

To explore the benefits and challenges of this effort, our Health Policy Forum and The University of Texas System will host "The Promise of Health Information Technology for the 21st Century" at the Baker Institute on Sept. 22. The conference brings together some of the nation's foremost experts in health information technology from both the public and private sectors, including keynote speaker David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health information technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The advantages of a national network of electronic medical records are many. It could improve health care by providing accurate and complete information about a patient’s health, no matter where he is or who is treating him. In addition, health care costs could decline if doctors have the information they need to quickly and accurately diagnose a health problem, reduce medical errors and provide the appropriate treatment. The federal government also stands to benefit by gaining the ability to track health trends across the country. But electronic medical records also present serious issues related to patient privacy and network security. Practical considerations, such as developing a computer platform compatible with disparate digital systems, also come into play.

"A key component to improving the quality of health care and restraining cost growth is the adoption of electronic medical records," says Vivian Ho, the James A. Baker III Chair in Health Economics. "But while developing electronic medical records may sound simple, it's one of the most daunting tasks facing the health care system today."

To learn more about this important issue, view a webcast of the event.

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The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy is a nonpartisan public policy think tank located on the campus of Rice University in Houston, Texas. The institute's distinguished fellows and scholars research and collaborate with experts from academia, government, the media, business and private organizations on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy.
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