Government releases plans on advancing electronic patient records

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The Bush administration announced Wednesday a long-term plan to transform the nation's healthcare system by advancing electronic patient records in a report entitled "The Decade of Health Information Technology."

The government will use its buying power as the largest purchaser of healthcare through federal Medicare and Medicaid programs to accelerate the transition, according to the report. Officials said they plan to work closely with the private sector.

The government plans to organize a consortium of private companies -- Health Information Technology Leadership Panel -- to plan, build and operate health information networks.

The transition to electronic health records, according to administration officials and healthcare experts, could save the government about $140 billion a year, or nearly 10% of the nation's annual healthcare bill. It could also reduce medical errors, which are estimated to be responsible for 45,000 to 98,000 deaths a year, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. David J. Brailer, who was appointed the national coordinator for health information technology in May, prepared the government report.