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Bush Launches 10-Year-Effort To Create National EMR System

The Bush administration is plowing toward a goal long sought by health plans and long-resisted by physicians: putting every patient's health history on electronic medical records.

First, President Bush touted the idea in a speech to the American Association of Community Colleges on April 26.

"...Within 10 years, every American must have a personal electronic medical record," Bush said. "That's a good goal for the country to achieve. The federal government has got to take the lead in order to make this happen by developing what's called technical standards."

Bush signed an executive order the next day creating the subcabinet level position of health information technology coordinator that would report directly to Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson.

On May 6, Thompson announced that David Brailer, a senior fellow at the Health Technology Center, would fill the new post. The office is expected to begin operations within three months.

Brailer's primary duty will be coordinating and evaluating government IT efforts and establishing technical standards that would allow physicians and hospitals to share EMRs. In addition, Thompson announced that Health Level 7, an international organization that establishes voluntary health standards, has offered a model and standards for EMRs.

Also, the clinical terminology database called SNOMED CT, developed by the American College of Pathologists, is now available at no cost. It can be downloaded from the HHS National Library of Medicine.

In his speech, Bush outlined a vision in which an elderly patient with multiple chronic illnesses, fading memory, and poor vision would no longer have to provide personal information each time he sees a new doctor.

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