DoD Aids Electronic Health Records System Initiative
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 21, 2004 The Defense Department will share its expertise using electronic health care records as part of a government initiative that aims to establish and link such a system nationwide by the end of the decade.
Making electronic record-keeping part of the public health care system would improve medical care and save money, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson noted here today at the HHS-sponsored Secretarial Summit on Health Information Technology.
Across-the-board implementation of health information technology could save the nation about $130 billion a year in health costs, Thompson said. And, he added, use of electronic medical records likely would improve the nation's correct medical treatment rate, currently at 55 percent.
"Don't you think, in America, we deserve (medical) treatment that's better than 55 percent correct?" Thompson asked his audience.
In April, President Bush directed DoD, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Office of Personnel Management to examine how they'd advance health information technology for public use nationwide in 10 years.
Bush also created an Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Dr. David J. Brailer, who also attended the summit, was appointed in May to lead that office.
Implementing health information technology across America, Brailer declared, "is about transformation of (U.S.) health care."
Thompson said he'd soon appoint a leadership panel to estimate the costs and benefits of implementing health information technology nationwide. That panel, he noted, would report back to him in October.
DoD will join with the Department of Veterans Affairs and HHS, explained Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, in developing "usable standards" for public-sector application of electronic storage and movement of medical information. Winkenwerder attended today's summit with Thompson, Brailer and other health care officials.
Winkenwerder said DoD first used electronic medical record keeping about 12 years ago and is now introducing an updated system.
DoD, through its vast health care system that includes contracted civilian- sourced providers as part of the Tricare system, also would "encourage the use of health information technology and health information exchange" across the private sector, Winkenwerder noted.
And today, Winkenwerder pointed out, DoD is contributing its knowledge to develop a national electronic bio-surveillance system. President Bush today signed legislation establishing Project BioShield, a program that encourages U.S. drug companies to develop antidotes for bio-terrorism agents.
It's logical, Winkenwerder noted, for DoD to share its computer expertise in developing a national electronic health records system. "After all, the Internet did, in fact start at the Department of Defense," he said.