Robert Wachter Tapped to Lead UK Digital Health System Review

Robert Wachter, MD, author of the New York Times bestselling book The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age, has been tapped by the United Kingdom to help chart its future of digital health records.

After reading Wachter’s book, which highlighted the pitfalls and unintended consequences of electronic health records, U.K. Secretary of Health Jeremy Hunt came to UC San Francisco last September to discuss the improvements and challenges in digitizing health records that the United States has experienced. Following the visit, Hunt asked Wachter to lead a review group.

Robert Wachter, MD

“I wrote The Digital Doctor in the hope that it would generate an important conversation in the U.S. about how to get health information technology right,” said Wachter, who’s currently serving as interim chief of the UCSF Department of Medicine. “It's exciting to be asked by the British Secretary of Health to think about the lessons from the American experience that might be relevant to England's health care system.”

An effort to implement electronic records in the U.K.’s hospitals in 2011 failed, at a loss of around $20 billion, Wachter noted, so they are highly motivated to get it right this time. On the other hand, the country’s implementation in primary care launched successfully.

Wachter is currently in the process of naming his committee members, who will be policy and information technology leaders, clinicians and patients from the U.S. and U.K. He will travel to England three times in the next several months to complete his review and report the results in June.

“My hope is that our group provides useful advice to the National Health Service; I suspect we will learn as much as we will teach in the process of the review,” he said.

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