National Health Record
The Bush administration has said the U.S. should have a national electronic health record system (EHR) by the year 2014.
This discussion regarding the need for electronic medical records goes back several years, but was really focused in this administration when the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) created a federal advisory board called the American Health Information Committee (AHIC) to look specifically at recommendations for establishing a national health record system.
There are many advantages, of course, such as easy access and portability of information from rural to urban sites, from small to large providers, from coast to coast. There are also challenges, such as maintaining privacy and confidentiality, interoperability (various systems talking to each other) and the individual cost especially to smaller healthcare providers. Ideally, there would also be one large platform on which the entire system is built. This is not an easy task. The UK went through this headache a few years ago.
What is truly baffling is that neither AHIC, nor the "AHIC successor organization" (abbreviated ASO) have clinical laboratory representation on their boards. Despite the fact that a large part of the medical record consists of laboratory data and there are regulatory requirements for the storage of lab data (by the Joint Commission, state, CMS, CLIA, etc.) the lab has been lumped in as "ancillary services" with pharmacy and other groups.
There is a great potential to serve patients who might, for example, be able to access their lab results through the Internet within hours, and for providers to have access to a patient's entire medical history wherever the patient presents, but the system will be lacking unless the laboratory community has input early on.