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Connecting Electronic Medical Records


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Medical records

Technology Review

Looking out his office window in Seattle, Thomas Payne can see two hospitals that use the same electronic record system as his own. And yet, says Payne, medical director of information technology services at the University of Washington, they all still exchange information by fax or paper.

That situation is the norm in today's fragmented and distributed health-care universe, where electronic medical records (EMRs) must increasingly draw on information from the multiple health-care institutions—clinics, hospitals, and specialists—where people receive care. But giving physicians access to the right information at the right time could dramatically streamline medical care. An estimated $77.8 billion, or about 5% of health-care costs, could be saved each year in the U.S. if a fully interoperable record-sharing system were in place, according to a 2005 study in Health Affairs. Most of the savings would come from preventing duplicate testing.

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