full of folders and papers devoted to the storage of medical records. Every time you visit, your records are created
or modified, and often duplicate copies are generated
throughout the course of a visit to the doctor or a
hospital. Take a look at your doctor’s office and chances
are you’ll see a bevy of clerks bent over desks filled with paper forms, mostly insurance claim documents. The
majority of medical records are currently paper-based,
making effective communication and access to the
records difficult: only 8 percent of the nation’s 5,000
hospitals and 17 percent of the nation’s 800,000 doctors
use computerized health care records of any kind.
Americans made well over a billion visits to doctors and
hospitals over the past year, with each American making
approximately four visits on average. As a result, there
are millions of paper medical records lining the corridors
of thousands of local medical practices, and for the most
part, they cannot be systematically examined, and they
are difficult to share.
Now for some good news: the administrative waste
could be largely eliminated by a massive investment in a
nationwide health care record system based on standardized
record formats, and the participation of all elements
in the health care provider industry.
The United States spends about $2 trillion on healthcare,
and about $700 billion or one-third is “waste,”
loosely defined as costs that could be shed if the healthcare industry followed best practices. This waste is a
major reason why the United States has the highest-cost
medical system per capita in the world. Among the many
sources of waste are fraud, duplicate tests, unnecessary
care, medical mistakes, administrative inefficiency,
redundant paperwork, and a paper-based health records
system. The outdated administrative procedures and
records situation causes an estimated 25 percent of the
total “waste,” or about...