Sharing patients' medical information must be easier, and government leaders should help with the process, said an Omaha pathologist who met last week with Obama administration officials.
Dr. Gene Herbek, an Omaha physician who is president-elect of the College of American Pathologists, was among about 150 physicians from across the country who talked with government officials about improving patient care coordination and quality.
One way to do that is to make sure a patient's medical history is easily accessible to health care providers, Herbek said.
“Having access to that medical record is key to efficient, cost-effective and good medical care,” he said. Without details of a patient's previous surgeries and diagnoses, he said, providers are “kind of left in the dark if they can't access that record very quickly and very easily.”
The doctors who talked with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and her staff spoke of their frustrations with some of the companies that are the main providers of the information technology framework, Herbek said. They asked the officials to use their influence to encourage companies to adopt standards so that all electronic medical records can be accessed “no matter who the company is.”
“They all have different software, platforms,” he said. Some standards may be in place, he said, but the process should be seamless — from a physician's office to a clinic to a hospital to a national chain of hospitals or laboratories.
The federal government has been encouraging health care providers to invest in electronic medical records systems since the mid-2000s. The 2009 economic stimulus package authorized $19.2 billion for enhanced Medicaid and Medicare payments to health care providers that adopt “meaningful use” of such systems into their practices by 2015.
Herbek, who is medical director of both the Methodist Women's Hospital laboratory and the transfusion service and blood conservation program at Methodist Hospital, said he got the impression that the physicians at the meeting came away encouraged.
“They're willing to work with the system, not fight it,” he said. “Everyone's trying to do the right thing and trying to make (the new health care law) work as best we can.”
The meeting was held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House.
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