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Published: Friday, 1/28/2005

President pushes medical Internet

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

CLEVELAND - President Bush visited the Cleveland Clinic yesterday and highlighted his plan to move medical record-keeping into the electronic age.

The plan - to establish a "medical Internet" that will make medical records more portable to follow patients and to give doctors nationwide accurate patient information - is one plank in Mr. Bush's plan to reform the nation's health-care system. The President told the crowd here that "modernization" of medical records will cut the cost of health care by 20 percent.

The Cleveland Clinic is a leader in making the switch to electronic record-keeping and has received two grants worth $3 million to establish a pilot program that others can follow.

Meeting with several hundred physicians and other medical personnel at the Intercontinental Hotel on the campus of the clinic, he explained how he wants to mesh his philosophy of government with a modern medical system.

"We've got the greatest medical system in the world, and the role of the federal government is to do what is necessary to keep it that way," Mr. Bush said. "So the fundamental question facing the country is, can we have a health-care system that is available and affordable without the federal government running it? ... I happen to believe the best health-care system is one where the consumers - the patients - make the decisions," he said.

"Most industries in America have used information technology to make their businesses more cost-effective, more efficient, and more productive, and the truth of the matter is, health care hasn't," he said.

"We've got fantastic new pharmaceuticals that help save lives, but we've got docs still writing records by hand. And most docs can't write very well anyway,'' Mr. Bush said.

Dr. C. Martin Harris, a physician and chief information officer at Cleveland Clinic, said the facility has developed a system that makes medical data about patients easier for them and their doctors to get and makes the records more secure.

"We want to know that the record is secure and that it remains confidential. But information technology actually works perfectly to document that. If you left a medical record on paper in a room, how will you know who saw it?'' Dr. Harris said. "When it's in electronic form, when anyone logs on to the system, we know. We know who they are, we know where they are, we know what they were looking at ... so that we can confirm for our patients that their information is secure."

The backbone of the electronic system at the clinic involves two programs. One includes comprehensive data on a patient's chart, including digitized X-rays, physicians' notes, and embedded links patients can use to find more information about their condition online. The other is an electronic-monitoring program that lets doctors monitor patients with transplants and implants without the patient's traveling to the clinic. Devices are inserted during those surgeries and transmit important data, Dr. Harris said.

Dr. Robert Juhasz, an internist at the clinic, said the electronic system has vastly improved the way doctors there communicate with each other and with their patients.

Contact Fritz Wenzel at:

fritz@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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