The U.S. government introduced great transformations in the health care sector during the last decade. This health policy position paper highlights one of the innovative aspects of the health delivery system, examining the issue of extensive introduction of medical health records to the current practice. Determining the relevant problem, the proposal explores two different types of medical data systems dealing with public and private information. The paper gives the background of the challenge, focusing on aims, sources, and forms of collecting and keeping personal medical information. Analyzing the problem of enhancing information technologies in the U.S. medical practice, the position paper suggests several options and discusses their potential benefits and drawbacks. The extensive introduction of electronic medical records needs thorough consideration. Therefore, social propaganda and privacy policies have been chosen as the most effective steps to be implemented by the U.S. government. Each political decision requires evaluating financial factors stimulating the policy reforms. This proposal will highlight the macroeconomic aspect of the health delivery issue under consideration. Realizing the urgent necessity of the problem, the U.S. authorities have developed the basic legislation supporting the creation of digital storage for personal health information in the United States. Examining the issue, the health policy position paper explores the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HIPAA) passed in 2009. The paper studies its key guarantees, such as the right to obtain the data about the use of patients’ personal health data, and the obligation to inform clients about the potential or real leakage of these health details. Moreover, major stakeholders of the electronic medical records policy have been distinguished in the paper. These are patients, doctors, clinics, and providers of IT medical databases. The paper mentions key advantages obtained by these parties. Finally, the essay evaluates the outcome of the suggested policy and dream about the future perspectives of implementing IT technologies in health care delivery.
The chief concern deals with the current state of affairs in the health care delivery system. This policy proposal addresses the issue of extensive introduction of electronic medical records that would contribute to the improvement in the healthcare field. The statement is that the government should pay more attention to the legislation and regulation of the process of implementing information technologies in the health care sector instead of leaving this issue for business and private clinics to solve.
For several decades, the U.S. healthcare system has been experiencing great transformations, touching its numerous aspects. The issue of collecting and keeping patients’ confidential information is one of the burning challenges nowadays. Launching digital databases is the subject for brisk debates among politics, experts, journalists, and ordinary American citizens. David Cutler notes, “Over the long term, the growth rate of medical costs is driven predominantly by changes in the technological capacity of medicine”. The extensive implementation of digital records would save approximately $78 billion annually. Taking into account the aforementioned benefit of introducing innovative technologies into practice, there is a strong necessity to apply them in the field of the U.S. healthcare system.
Different Types of Medical Data Systems
Medical data systems can be used for public and private purposes, determining the sources of collecting information and goals of its implementation.
There are several sources of acquiring public health information, such as “federally funded national surveys, vital statistics, public and private administrative and claim data, regulatory data, and medical records data”. Healthcare institutions provide the official information obtained from the surveys and official reports on the subject. Private information may be obtained from ordinary citizens personally for their individual needs. The data of this kind urgently demand absolute guarantees of their privacy.
Public health programs involve information received from two types of data systems. The data systems of the first type deal with public medical data, implementing typical approaches. The data systems of the second type are supposed to be used for different aims. Nevertheless, experts may apply those systems in any way. As an illustration of this, the primary goal of vital statistic information is the awareness of the national rates of diseases among the American population. However, the obtained information about the birth and death levels in the USA may be employed for surveillance. The Medicare and Social Security Disability information are used to explore the alterations in the U.S. healthcare field. The information of this kind is freely shared in the digital form, being easily found on the Internet.
Private information about patients requires a more careful attitude of the government, demanding the effective legislation on its keeping absolute protection. Such details concerning patients’ health are to be saved in special databases. Being kept in the written form earlier, clients’ health care data have been transformed into electronic medical records within the last decade.
Electronic Medical Records
Nowadays, launching electronic medical records (EMRs) is becoming the most popular initiative in the health care field all over the world. Nevertheless, in the sector of implementing information technologies in health care, the United States is far behind the world’s developed countries. Nursing personnel has to request entry systems and personal health records for practical use. According to Herrick, Gorman, and Goodman, “only about 17 percent of doctors and 8 percent to 10 percent of U.S. hospitals use EMRs” (2010). These figures demonstrate an extremely narrow utilization spectrum of innovative world experience in the medical practice.
Electronic medical records fulfill numerous functions. Digital records are replacing old-fashioned and inefficient paper notes, informing doctors about their patients’ health. Therefore, the primary and sole goal of EMRs is to retain patients’ health information for their diagnosis and curing. Electronic medical records keep personal information about individuals save, such as the number of their mobile phones and home addresses, their anatomic characteristics like height, weight, and a body mass index. Thereafter follows the medical data. They comprise the information about the preceding medical treatment and cures prescribed for the following period. Information about surgery operations, complications, and improvements are noted in the digital form as well. Being extremely useful, electronic medical records keep medical financial information, such as insurance plans, discharge summaries, and treatment coverage. Patients’ information may be stored in various forms, such as video and electronic files.
Analyzing the issue of extensive implementation of electronic medical records, several policy options, including the predicted outcomes of each alternative, have been developed.
Taking into account all the aforementioned information, several challenges are to be solved in the health care delivery sector. First, people are to be convinced in the safety and effectiveness of medical health records. Therefore, the first policy option is to launch the mass media and corporate propaganda of the EMRs benefits. The wise probation period should be provided to convince people of the effectiveness of digital innovation. On the other hand, such governmental support may be denounced for imposing ideas on independent citizens.
The second policy option is to devise a legislative base to protect the security of personal data. In fact, this task is the prime challenge in the urgent shift from the old-fashioned paper health documentation to the digital variant. The protection of personal data may be provided by suggesting that only authorized persons have access to confidential information. The nursing staff is to be divided into several groups with different level of power. On the other hand, this step would cause several difficulties, such as the shortage of experienced specialists and the increase of expenses concerning the issue.
Poor system design and indexing is the next problem. The third policy option suggests that the authorities initiate grant programs supporting the development and implementation of ‘third platform technologies.’ Currently, computer engineers share ideas about using such innovative tools on individual mobile phones and social websites. Information analysis and the cloud are regarded as a perspective as well. The governmental support of technological advances would increase the U.S. healthcare standards, offering American citizens easy access to medical services. The potential negative side of this alternative may include high costs of the issue.
The greatest challenge of implementing electronic medical records is the poor privacy protection of confidential information about individuals’ health, contacts, and their financial state. People can suffer from mental or fatal diseases. The leak of such data may cause both moral and material adverse consequences for patients, their relatives, friends, and surrounding individuals. The confidential status of personal data requires introducing a wise policy and creating proper legislation to support governmental projects.
The next policy alternative concerns the legal inconsistency in the field of U.S. health care delivery. During the reforms in the medical sector, numerous laws have been adopted. Nevertheless, this legislative base should be systemized and enhanced. The U.S. authorities should provide efficient legislative support to the project, offering all the stakeholders the necessary guarantees.