Electronic health records imperative, HHS secretary says

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The Bush administration wants electronic health records to be available throughout the country by 2015, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said this week.

Calling the records an "economic imperative," Leavitt said the newer technology is needed to reduce medical errors and healthcare costs. Technology also could be used to track off-label uses of prescription drugs to educate patients and doctors about results, he said in a talk with medical faculty at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

He hopes national health information technology standards will be developed soon so healthcare providers can consumers can more easily facilitate access to medical records.

Despite encouragement from the federal government, health insurers and consumer advocates, physicians are slow to adopt electronic health records, according to a study published by RAND. Between 10% and 16.4% of the nations physicians were using EHRs in 2002, the study said. The cost of new technology and retraining staff hampers adoption rates for some physicians.