National health IT coordinator pushes industry to tackle medical errors

February 17, 2005

Health information technology is not just about wired physicians or better treatment for patients, said Dr. David Brailer, the first National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, at the HIMSS meeting’s closing session. It’s about treating the healthcare industry itself.

Health information technology is not just about wired physicians or better treatment for patients, said Dr. David Brailer, the first National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, at the HIMSS meeting's closing session. It's about treating the healthcare industry itself.

"The epidemic of medical errors is unabated," Brailer said.

Brailer was appointed to the HIT position by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson last May in response to President Bush's call for widespread deployment of IT to foster improvements in patient safety within 10 years.

"There is no skirting the issue," he said. "We can't wait until the end of the charter. We have to begin to make tough decisions this year or next."

One goal of Brailer's office is to change the way decisions are made at the point of care. Besides being the most challenging environment, point of care is the source of all value, he said.

"The goal is bring electronic health records into practices in order to reduce medical errors and duplicative work, and to enable clinicians to do what they try so hard to do: achieve better outcomes," Brailer said.

A second goal is to make clinicians interconnected. This is essential both to reach the desired health status benefits and to allow patient portability.

"The challenge is to create an infrastructure to have critical health information available whenever and wherever treatment decisions are being made," Brailer said.

Personalizing care is the goal that will be most visible to patients, he said. Applications such as a patient portal will allow them to interact conveniently with their clinicians. They can find out information such as lab results, for example, without going to the doctor's office.

Knowing what your cholesterol is also helps a patient feel in control, Brailer said.

"This really is what HIT is all about - people feeling like they are in control of their healthcare and being able to make decisions and not being told what to do," Brailer said.

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