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Patient Command Tells Sec. Sebelius That Existing Technology Can Make Electronic Health Records Interoperable

The key: making it simpler.

MCLEAN, Va., May 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Patient Command(R), Inc. is asking Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, to adopt new rules defining how computers should exchange medical records electronically (be interoperable). Qualified Electronic Health Records are crucial in President Obama's stimulus legislation, and they must be interoperable under the new law. Sec. Sebelius faces a Dec. 31 deadline to adopt initial rules for interoperability.

Unfortunately, there has been no clear technical path to interoperability. Existing computer systems in hospitals and doctors' offices are typically incompatible, and can't exchange records. Worse, most proposed schemes for interoperability are too complex to be practical.

Patient Command's simplified recommendations are based on combining existing technology and evolving medical record standards in new ways. The new rules would require all Qualified Electronic Health Records to be capable of using a standard formatting process that exists today (called XML) to input and output medical record narrative. These functions can be added affordably to established (legacy) healthcare computer systems.

The present incompatible legacy systems could then routinely exchange narrative (and pictures such as X-Rays and MRIs) in standard formats that doctors use. The technology exists; it can be implemented as soon as the Secretary adopts new rules.

Once Qualified Electronic Health Records exchange standard narratives, people across the United States can more easily adopt electronic Personal Health Records (PHRs). PHRs can be safeguarded in health record banks, and consumers can compile, control, and own their medical records and those of their families - and they can better protect their privacy.

When individuals can use PHRs to help manage their health care, they stay healthier and enjoy better treatment outcomes, and costs are lower for them, their employers, governments, and society.

Patient Command's suggestions to Sec. Sebelius can also be used by the Military Health System to create a Virtual Lifetime Record for both the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans' Affairs. This Virtual Lifetime Record also could connect to PHRs in the civilian world.

Free open-source computer code is available to help make Patient Command's proposals practical and affordable in the short term. Using open-source code is of great interest to Congress and the Administration.

Sec. Sebelius can issue a rulemaking seeking public comment about Patient Command's proposals, and issue rules by end of year. In contrast to many interoperability discussions that are not practical in any near term, Patient Command's proposals can help achieve the President's goal of an automated medical record for every American by 2014.

Patient Command's May 6, 2009 letter to Sec. Sebelius is available at under "About Patient Command." It is also available on the site of the Health Record Banking Alliance, .

Patient Command, Inc. is developing a personal health record (PHR) system.

SOURCE Patient Command, Inc.
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