"Steps are now under way to bring ... lifesaving" electronic health records to all hospitals and physician offices in the U.S., but "Congress is considering a bill that would make it harder to allow your information to follow you throughout your health care treatment," former National Coordinator for Health Information Technology David Brailer writes in a New York Times opinion piece.
The House and Senate have passed separate bills to promote the implementation of health care information technology, but "they disagree on the most important issue ... : whether portability should be a condition for [EHR] donations," Brailer writes, adding, "The Senate version links portability to donations, whereas the House version does not." According to Brailer, portability is the "key to digital medicine."
He writes, "Imagine arriving at an emergency room, swiping a security card and having your medical records appear instantly.
Health information portability also allows dissatisfied consumers to more easily switch doctors, hospitals or health plans, intensifying the competition to provide good quality care."
Critics "argue that it is too early to set standards for portability" and "that portability will slow adoption" of EHRs, "but they miss the fundamental and overarching issue that Congress must confront as it tries to reconcile the competing versions of the bill: opposition to portable health information is, by definition, support for proprietary health information," Brailer writes.
"Think what it would be like to be in an emergency room where a doctor can't make lifesaving decisions because your health information is at a competing hospital," he writes, adding, "As the era of digital medicine begins, we have one chance to get it right, and that means making portable health information our priority" (Brailer, New York Times, 9/19).
This article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.