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In today's Health Care Blog, David Kibbe MD and Brian Klepper PhD continue a discussion that they kicked off with an open letter to the incoming Obama administration in December about health care IT and electronic medical records (EMR/EHRs).

Patients think that EMR/EHRs are the answer to their prayers – no more forms to fill out, no referral slips to carry around, hey-presto, it's all on this flash drive. What Kibbe and Klepper point out is that's just the tip of the iceberg:

"…we are realistic about the problems that exist with health information technologies as they are currently constituted. As we described in our previous post (and contrary to some recent claims), most products are NOT interoperable, meaning licensees of different commercial systems – each using different proprietary formats – often find it difficult to exchange even basic health care information."

In other words, let's not create a tower of Babel just because IT tools exist that will let us. There's enough failure-to-launch across the medical-care sector now: forests of paper records that are a bear to manage, much less share; HIPAA standing like Colossus over every single one of those sheets of paper; and the rising tide of 'perfect EMR solutions' that have been developed in the last few years.

There is no 'perfect solution' – what's required is that healthcare realize that it's an IT business, just as every other commercial sector has come to realize over the last decade.

"…many health care professionals still think of health IT as a compartmentalized function within health care organizations. But health IT has increasingly become the glue between and across all health care supply chain, care delivery and financing enterprises. In the past, it was enough for health IT to facilitate information exchange inside organizations – in which case a proprietary system would do – but we now expect information to be sent and received seamlessly, independent of platform, including over the Internet. Most of the currently dominant EHR technologies don't even begin to get us there."

As someone who has recent experience as a patient managing cancer treatment, the idea of having my records securely available to any medical practitioner in the U.S. via the internet sounds like Utopia. An achievable Utopia, if the incoming administration listens to the rising chorus of voices asking for exactly that.

Add yours to the chorus.

That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it…

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