Delaware has one word for health care: plastic

Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.) definitely prefers plastic to paper when it comes to health care.

Carper spoke at a conference on Capitol Hill yesterday sponsored by the eHealth Initiative, a consortium of health care organizations that promotes technology as a means of improving health care, and a congressional steering committee on telehealth and health care informatics.

Financial institutions based in Delaware issue 60 percent of the nation's credit cards. With all this experience in the card business, Carper said, Delaware would be the perfect place to try out a tracking system that would store all of an individual's health care information on a plastic card. 'I see Delaware as a laboratory of democracy,' he said.

Carper said his mother is a resident of a health care facility for older people, where she receives excellent care. But a few years earlier, her situation was more difficult'she had many different doctors who prescribed many different medications.

Tracking all those medicines was complicated, with a significant potential for medical error, Carper said.

Delaware this month embarked on a project to develop a statewide electronic access system for health care.

Patient Safety Institute Inc. of Plano, Texas, will supply a health information network for the state.

The health care access system will work much like a credit card, Carper said. 'I keep the card. I control the access.'

A patient would give the card to a health care provider, who could access information about the patient's history and health care.

Carper said he will request that the General Accounting Office perform a study of the plan to find out how such a plan could save money and reduce treatment errors.

Carper said that if the Delaware plan were implemented nationally, it could save 'tens of billions of dollars. That's real money in Delaware.'

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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