Medical community split over IT

Oct. 24, 2009 at 11:29 PM

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama's goal of making patients' medical records digital has split the medical community on the plans' effectiveness and safety, officials say.

As part of Obama's February stimulus package, doctors and hospitals can receive millions of dollars to purchase information technology to convert from paper medical records, The Washington Post reported.

The $19.5 billion program to increase the use of digital records has attracted questions about health IT products. Computer systems can lead to errors, increase doctors' workloads and affect patient care, critics say.

A 2005 study of electronic medical records concluded "health IT can be beneficial, but many current systems are clunky, counter intuitive and in some cases dangerous," the Post reported.

But there are other studies that found health IT saves time and reduces errors. The programs are a success, say organizations such as the Veterans Administration and Kaiser Permanente.

Some systems do have flaws, says David Blumenthal of the Department of Health and Human Services. "But the critical question is whether, on balance, care is better than before. I think the answer is yes."

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