Effective: Oct. 1, 2012
Health care remains one of the few industries still tied to paper records. The new law kicks off a series of changes to usher in electronic records.
"We're missing some serious tools here," says Mark Savage, senior attorney at Consumers Union, who has been working on electronic records since 2009.
"The analogy I use is: What if the Federal Reserve Board did not have electronic access to the economic information in the various banks during the financial crisis?" he says. "And what if all the information they requested got faxed back to them, which is what doctors are doing? It would have been a nightmare."
Dr. Stream says the savings from nonduplication of services alone could be staggering.
"Say a patient comes to me with a painful knee, and I take an X-ray. And tomorrow, their knee is worse, and they go to the emergency room. If the ER physician can't see the X-ray I did yesterday, they're going to do another X-ray. The patient is going to get double X-ray exposure and double expense," he says. "If you can make that information available, it helps both on cost and patient safety."