Brailer prioritizes health IT efforts

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The federal government is working on three new health IT initiatives aimed at making the interaction between doctor and patient easier, faster and safer, a government health IT specialist said in late December. David Brailer, national coordinator for health information technology, told United Press International that his office selected initiatives that the public said they wanted.

Two of the projects - a personal medication history and a personal registration record - are parts of the upcoming personal health record that can be completed with existing technology and information. The third project is an electronic communication method for patients and physicians.

The personal medication history was tested in prototype after Hurricane Katrina to allow doctors in shelters to access evacuees' drug regimens. Brailer said that soon patients will be able to either go online or call a toll-free number and get a list of all the medications they are taking and their dosages. He said this would be particularly useful for people on complicated drug regimens and older people whose prescriptions are changed frequently or who forget what pills they are taking. Patients can allow emergency room physicians and specialists access to the list as well, he added.

The personal registration record will help eliminate the need to fill out endless forms when people see new doctors or go to the hospital, pharmacy or radiology center. Brailer said the electronic communication system is another work in progress that would allow doctors and patients to talk to each other using e-mail or a web site, and also allow patients to access lab and test results from a remote location.

Brailer said in 2006 his office would spend about half of the time on breakthroughs and the other half on infrastructure and foundation items.