Healthcare Technology Featured Article

January 22, 2013

UK's NHS to Study Example of Affordable Care Act's Electronic Health Records Provisions

While many people in the U.S. continue to debate the pros and cons of the U.S. Affordable Care Act (popularly known as “Obamacare”), it would appear that portions of the legislation have garnered admirers abroad.

The UK is launching ambitious plans to modernize is healthcare technology via electronic healthcare records (EHR). The goal is to achieve increased efficiency, take advantage of the same kind of benefits other industries are gaining from technology, provide greater transparency of patient data and allow more integrated care, which can lead to cost savings.

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) employs 1.7 million people, treats three million patients each week, and operates under a budget of $170 billion (£106 billion) each year. The NHS is about to undergo a complex internal reorganization and is already mandated to cut $32 billion (£20 billion) from its budget by 2015. The savings are expected to come from new efficiencies, and EHR is expected to be a major part of it, according to InformationWeek.

This will be a second attempt for the UK to move fully to an EHR model. Changes implemented under former Prime Minister Tony Blair a decade ago were costly (about $19 billion) as well as widely regarded as a failure.

"The NHS cannot be the last man standing as the rest of the economy embraces the technology revolution,” said Jeremy Hunt, Britain’s Health Secretary. “It is crazy that ambulance drivers cannot access a full medical history of someone they are picking up in an emergency -- and that GPs and hospitals still struggle to share digital records…only with world-class information systems will the NHS deliver world-class care.”

A central IT executive in the U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS), Tim Kelsey, has gone on record saying IT leaders in the NHS should pursue ideas based on the U.S.'s network of 60 regional extension centers in accelerating the adoption of electronic patient records, InformationWeek is reporting.

"The biggest change in adoption in the U.S. came not from the Meaningful Use billions, but when [President Barack] Obama set up regional extension centers to train doctors and managers and develop and spread sustainable business models," said Kelsey.

One of the elements of the Affordable Care Act is a series of changes that will standardize billing and require health plans to begin adopting and implementing rules for the secure, confidential, electronic exchange of health information. It is believed that EHRs will reduce paperwork and administrative burdens, cut costs, reduce medical errors and improve the quality of care.

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

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