Electronic medical file sharing network coming together

No matter what happens with health care reform, an electronic network to share your medical records is being stitched together.

Health practitioners, information tech experts, lawyers, ethicists and government officials are racing to implement a national system by 2014.

"We don't want to just have the equipment in place. We want to have a meaningful use of electronic health records that will help consumers and health care providers," said Helen Connors, director of the University of Kansas Center for Health Informatics.

You may already have seen your physician typing exam notes into a laptop. And you can already picture the day when you don't have to hand-carry your X-rays from an imaging center to a hospital. Or when you show up in an emergency room and a click of a mouse presents an immediate health history.

But all that's just a glimpse of what electronic file sharing is about. The big picture involves what's called "comparative effectiveness research."

The phrase describes the idea that if a Kansas City, Kan., hospital is getting outstanding results by treating an ailment in a specific way, a hospital in Goodland, Kan., ought to know about it, use it and be financially rewarded by Medicare, Medicaid and insurers. Eventually, such information will be shared nationwide.

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