By Michelle L. Start
mstart @ news-press.com
February 26, 2006
Carrying a prescription that he couldn't read and trying to get it
filled at a local CVS store, Bonita Springs resident Sean Balke said
he looks forward to the day when medical records will be online.
"I don't get that many prescriptions, but this one is for back pain,"
said Balke, 32. "I can't read it."
Starting on April 1, the first step toward having all medical records
accessible online will begin in Florida.
"We'll be rolling it out over the course of the year," said Rob
Cronin, spokesman for SureScripts, which is launching the software in
10 states. "By the end of the year, we expect it to be statewide in
Already 75 percent of Fort Myers pharmacies have signed up for the
software, which has yet to go live.
Cronin said those pharmacies include stores such as Albertsons, CVS,
Kash 'N Karry, Publix, Walgreens and a number of independent
It's a big first step in a move to allow patients and physicians to
monitor and access medical records online. Federal officials hope to
launch software for that type of records-sharing by 2013.
In this initial step, doctors will be able to file prescriptions
through the SureScript system and pharmacists will be able to view a
list of the patients' medications, which will provide an additional
Ideally, pharmacists would catch any signs of possible drug
interactions, and emergency room doctors would be able to check which
medications are prescribed, which officials said will be extremely
helpful if a patient is unconscious.
Daniel Kinsella, vice president of The Rever Group consulting firm,
said the process of writing prescriptions and then having patients
obtain them in a retail setting while dealing with insurance,
co-payments and record-keeping has been ineffective and tedious.
"Physicians wrote prescriptions without knowledge of other medications
that the patient was on, other than those that were self-reported," he
"Pharmacy benefit and Medical Spending Account managers received and
processed tons of paper. Patients were exposed to the inconveniences
of delivering prescriptions to retail pharmacists, and the burden of
tracking and reporting an array of active prescriptions to their
physicians at time of service."
By using electronic records, patients can benefit from the
consolidation of information about all of their medications,
prescribed by all of their doctors and the potential for reviewing new
prescriptions for potential drug and food reactions, he said.
Kinsella also pointed out that in the not-too-distant future, patients
will be able to record the date and time that they take medications,
ensuring a higher level of compliance with recommended dosage.
"I'm not sure if it is a good thing because of privacy issues," said
Vincent Mercogliano, 65, of Fort Myers. "If you have your records
online, someone can find out which prescriptions you are on."
He worried that it could lead to job loss and other possible
While officials said the online system will have tight security, some
experts said there's no way to guarantee complete privacy regardless
of whether it is prescription records or more detailed medical
"We have to worry about the hackers of the world," said Pati Trites,
chief executive officer of Augusta, Mich.-based Compliance Resources.
"There have already been some breaches in the pharmacy system."
Her company monitors hospitals, doctors offices and other medical
professionals to see whether they are in compliance with HIPPA laws.
Trites said during a recent survey, only 55 percent of health care
providers and 72 percent of insurance companies were in compliance
with the federal privacy protection laws.
"We have to work on enforcement of tight security," she said. "The law
is a year old. They're basically saying we're not compliant with the
Trites said she's worried that once all medical records go online,
patients could be exposed to some severe ramifications if those
records become public.
"You could have job loss, insurance denials, increasing rates and
publicity," she said. "If you have a teacher with AIDS or Hepatitis C,
that's protected information. You can come up with all types of
scenarios. We have to find a secure way of transmitting and housing
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