One of the newer ideas floating around is to make electronic health records work like wikipedia-style (semi)open-source documents. A person’s medical record could be accessed (with permission) by doctors and updated with new information. That way, there is one master record that is continually updated and current.
This is a great idea on its surface, but there are significant challenges that need to be overcome. The obvious one is the privacy issue. One possible safeguard here might be technology that could grant temporary access permissions to encrypted data via patient biometrics.
Other implementation hurdles might prove to be a greater challenge. For example, how would maintenance of a patient’s electronic record be controlled? You would want an efficient way for errors to be corrected, but you wouldn’t want the patient to be able to delete data in their own record that they didn’t like being there. Care could be compromised and liability issues could abound. Yet, what about the patients’ freedom and right to their own information (is there such a right?)?
For more thoughts about wikipedia-like EHR’s, check out Dr. John Halamka’s remarks at The Health Care Blog.