Millions in federal stimulus will help healthcare go digital

By Jola Szubielski - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Healthcare is about to get a tremendous boost in the area of informaton technology, nearly $20 billion from federal stimulus funds to enter into a paperless medical records system.

This morning Senator Mark Warner held a seminar on the VCU campus to discuss ways Virginia health officials can access these federal dollars and become a national leader in information technology.  But a recent breach of of the Virginia Department of Health Professions prescription records, have brought up questions about the security in going digital

Its the future of the healthcare industry, electronic medical records, said to be critical in reducing errors and allowing doctors to share patient information.

Senator Warner says, "We can increase efficiency and save literally billions of dollars in our healthcare system."

And now stimulus money will allow for doctors and hospitals to make the necessary upgrades. President Obama's main point person on health it made his Virginia his first stop and comes on the same day the president is set to outline additional guidance on how the almost 20 billion dollars will be distributed.

National Coordinator for Healthcare IT, Dr. David Blumenthal says,  "We can make their healthcare better we can make it safer, we can make it less costly through the use of these new technologies."

But with the move towards paperless records comes questions about security.  A few weeks ago, what could be the state's most serious cybercrime in recent history; its believed a computer hacker may have stolen millions of paitent prescription records kept on file with the Virginia Department of Health Professionals. The incident is under investigation by Virginia State Police and the FBI, and an issue Senator Warner says will be a challenge.

"We have a very efficient around financial records, we need to import and tighten those national standards. If you have national standards that would involve security and privacy, you take a giant step towards making sure what happened here in Virginia doesn't happen elsewhere."

At this point its unclear how the money will be distributed and just how much Virginia can qualify for, but some of the money will either go directly to the state or will be awarded through a grant process.

(c) 2009. WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.