U.S. medical-records technology faulted


The United States lags "at least a dozen years" behind other industrialized countries in adopting electronic medical records, according to a study published yesterday in the journal Health Affairs.

Gerard F. Anderson, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Bianca K. Frogner, a graduate student there; Roger A. Johns, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; and Uwe Reinhardt, a professor of economics at Princeton University, are the authors of the article. It's the latest in a series of annual looks by Anderson and colleagues at health spending in developed countries.

According to the report, the United States spent $5,635 per person on health care, two and a half times the average for industrialized countries of $2,280. U.S. spending was 48 percent higher than Norway, the second-highest spender at $3,807 per capita.

Past comparisons by Anderson and his colleagues have also found spending much higher in the United States than in other developed countries. They have attributed the difference in spending in large measure to higher prices for health care goods and services.

This year's article is based on 2003 data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based organization of industrialized countries.

The use of information technology, such as electronic health records, is believed to reduce costs and improve patient safety, but the article notes that there are no definitive studies on cost savings.

A barrier to development in the United States, the article argues, is that doctors have to bear the cost of installing the records systems, while insurers and the government realize most of the cost savings. In other countries, such as Germany, which will have a health "smart card" for all residents this year, government and insurers have borne the cost.

The article also estimated health technology spending per capita in several developed countries, and found that the United States - at 43 cents per capita - is spending less than a 10th of the second-lowest country, Australia. Canada is spending $31.85 per person and Germany $21.20, the authors report.


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