New Health Internet Would Assist Physicians and Patients Alike

November 3, 2009

The new health Internet being designed by federal officials will hopefully be up and running by next year, a move that will allow physicians and patients to more easily exchange health information.

Federal health officials who are working to create a new Health Internet that will better enable physicians and patients alike to exchange health information are hoping that the system will be up and running by early next year.

The positive responses from policy experts and technology companies about “forging the system into a consumer-oriented network” are the right kinds of feedback, according to Aneesh Chopra, President Obama's chief technology officer. The new system has also been of interest to technology firms, including Microsoft and Google, who are working hard to find new and effective ways to use digital medical records and the online healthcare services that are being created with increasing frequency. Despite this positive response, however, technical barriers and concerns about the privacy of people’s health records have kept most individuals’ records in paper form or closed networks.

The current health data sharing service that was created by the government is only intended for physicians. The new Health Internet is being created for use by physicians and the public.

Chopra, and Todd Park, who holds a similar position in the US Department of Health and Human Services, provided a preview of the plan in late October to health IT professionals in Boston. The administration’s hope is that the technological infrastructure of the Health Internet “will encourage millions of people to more readily exchange their medical records with doctors and hospitals online.”

“This could catch on quite quickly," said Robert M. Kolodner, a psychiatrist and the former federal health information technology chief who helped develop the network for government agencies. "Those who are skeptical can wait until they're more comfortable.”

As a part of his healthcare reform, Obama has set a goal that every American will have a digital health record by 2014. In addition, the government is ready to invest as much as $45 billion in stimulus funds over the next 10 years to assist doctors and hospitals with the cost of electronic record systems.