Ever heard of NeHTA? I hadn’t before last week, and I don’t enjoy feeling that I don’t know something around the realm of electronic health records. Not knowing has always been a psychological, must-climb-that-mountain thing with me. However, after figuring it out, I decided to bone up on my international electronic medical records knowledge in order to be a little more well-rounded in the world of EMRs. After all, it’s a small world and I’m interested to know how countries outside the US deal with electronic health technology.
I remembered previously reading about the UK’s national EMR project to bring electronic records to the majority of UK citizens. This $18 billion initiative of the National Health Service (NHS) has now been largely called a failure (in such articles as Don’t Repeat the UK’s Electronic Health Records Failure). This is most likely because of the way it was structured, with a limited number of software companies (four in total) allowed into the mix by the government and a lack of accountability to user physicians. If the EMR vendors were operating in a free market system like the U.S., “customer” doctors could otherwise walk away when the product didn’t meet their needs or desires. There are a number of assertions in Don’t Repeat the UK’s Electronic Health Records Failure that I think may be a misinterpretation of how similar the UK and US programs actually are (or rather aren’t).
NeHTA, on the other hand, is the National E-Health Transitional Authority, the Austrialian national health program to bring EMRs to the population at large. The Health Identifiers Initiative program has been criticized for overspending and not meeting established deadlines. However, their Health Identifiers Initiative is interesting in that it attempts to go beyond US NPI (National Provider Identifier) program to the point of also requiring all patients to have their own unique numbers. Currently in the US, only social security numbers (SSN) are unique to each individual in the population. Western Australia to Push Health Identifiers explains the simple concept.
Although at this point, it’s all still as clear as mud to me, I think it may do me some good to know more about these international EMR programs. Therefore, I think I’ll explore and write on these from time to time to enhance my understanding of the who, what, when, and where of our fellow brothers and sisters in the world.
Dr. West is an endocrinologist in private practice in Washington, DC. He completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. West opened The Washington Endocrine Clinic, PLLC, as a solo practice in 2009. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.