WASHINGTON — An initiative announced Tuesday may soon give patients the option of making key information from their medical records available electronically to all of the doctors, hospitals and pharmacies involved in their care.
Fragmentation and lack of communication among caregivers are widely cited by critics of the United States' health care system as a source of medical errors, unnecessary spending and inadequate care.
The project by the Patient Safety Institute, a new nonprofit organization, will seek to address those problems by creating an electronic network that would allow participating doctors and health care institutions to share information that is often needed to make medical decisions, such as the list of a patient's current medicines, recent laboratory tests, allergies and immunization records.
"Privacy is paramount. The consumer should not have to give up any privacy whatever if this is done properly," said Dee Hock, an advisor to PSI and the founder of Visa International, a financial network that allows banks in more than 200 countries to share information for credit card transactions.
Sharing of an individual's private medical data would only occur after the patient had given permission and specified which physicians and institutions should have access, said Jack Lewin, chief executive of the California Medical Assn. and chairman of PSI's board of directors.
"In the future, I see the use of this kind of [electronic] assistance to be the standard of care," said Jane Delgado, president of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health and a member of PSI's board. "People won't want to sit down and repeat the nine medicines that they're taking."