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Inside Politics

Clinton offers plan to improve health care

Clinton said the United States is far behind in the use of electronic recordkeeping.
Clinton said the United States is far behind in the use of electronic recordkeeping.

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Hillary Clinton, who managed her husband's failed attempt to overhaul the nation's health care system a decade ago, presented on Monday her own more modest plan to do so.

In a speech to a largely receptive audience composed primarily of health care workers and administrators at Cornell Medical Center -- in the center of "bedpan alley" on Manhattan's Upper East Side -- the Democratic senator from New York said her plan would improve the nation's "fragmented, redundant, inefficient, bureaucratic" health care network.

Clinton described a system in which medical research data and patient records would be stored electronically to ensure everyone who needs access to the information gets it, and to reduce paperwork.

Under Clinton's vision for the government-funded system, hospitals would adopt a standardized language regarding patients' medical histories and research advances.

"Americans need a new, modern, 21st-[century] version of health-care delivery based on the premise of information in the hands of the right people at the right time, which drives not only quality, but also value in our health-care dollar," Clinton said.

Clinton said that about four-fifths of medical procedures currently used by doctors and nurses have not been proven effective.

If doctors were given access to the latest information -- via electronic, hand-held computers -- they would be able to improve research and boost the effectiveness of treatments as well as streamline communication and widen patient access to health records, she said.

"What our medical system requires of providers is a little bit like asking pilots to routinely land planes without any information from the control tower," Clinton said. "They are denied critical information, and then asked to make life-and-death decisions."

Such an electronic infrastructure could give doctors more time to spend with their patients, she said. Replacing paper records with electronic data storage would cut costs of litigation and administrative tasks, she added.

The resulting improved patient access to health records and their doctor's e-mail could cut down doctor visits, she said.

The United States is woefully behind in the use of electronic recordkeeping, she said. In 2002, nearly 60 percent of primary-care physicians in the UK used electronic records, while only 17 percent used them in the United States, Clinton said.

The former first lady said her system would include safeguards to ensure records remain private. "We must ensure the privacy of these systems or else they will undermine the trust they are trying to create," Clinton said.

About a quarter of the nation's $1.6 trillion health care bill goes for administrative fees, she said, citing a recent study by the American Hospital Association, which also showed that, for every hour spent on patient care, an additional half-hour was required to fill out paperwork.

As first lady in 1993 and 1994, Hillary Rodham Clinton spearheaded an effort that would have overhauled the provision of health care. Critics compared her plan to socialized medicine and it was killed by opposition from special-interest groups -- including doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

Though its failure led her to pull back from public advocacy during the rest of her husband's administration, she vowed shortly after winning her Senate seat to make it a focus of her work.


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