- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 2004

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BOSTON — Doctors in Massachusetts would be able to access patients’ records from any hospital or clinic in the state by computer under an initiative announced yesterday.

The “eHealth” project will begin as a pilot program in three communities yet to be selected, with a goal of having a statewide system in place within five years. The insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is providing $50 million in funding toward the project.

Gov. Mitt Romney said switching from paper records to easily shared electronic records could save the state millions of dollars while improving patient safety and quality of care.

Project leader Micky Tripathi said medicine is one of the few business sectors yet to embrace electronic information technology, mainly for a lack of financial incentive and the difficulty of making computer systems compatible.

Mr. Tripathi said Massachusetts could become the first state in the nation to have a statewide electronic medical record system. He said Indiana has launched a similar pilot program, but Tripathi said it doesn’t have the funding or the industry support that exists in Massachusetts.

Mr. Tripathi said hospitals and doctors have had no financial incentive to invest in an electronic record-keeping system that primarily benefits insurance companies by keeping costs down. Now that an insurance company is making an investment, that concern could be allayed, he said.

Mr. Romney said the system would have strict controls to allow patients to control who sees their records.

The Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization, said patients should have individual personal identification numbers by which they would control access to their records.

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