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Going Paperless

In hospitals worldwide, conversion to digital ranges from the futuristic to the pragmatic. Here, a sampling of progress.

By John Rubino // Winter 2006
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Australia

Seven hospitals in South Australia have centralized their records digitally, and there are now plans to create a national electronic health database for prescription drugs.

Canada

Every few seconds, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario records newborns’ medical information digitally, then analyzes it for blood and endocrine disorders and other vital signs. And by late 2006 the Royal Ottawa Hospital hopes to go completely digital—virtually no paper notes, files or charts.

European Union

Supported by the European Commission, Netc@rds is an entity attempting to streamline the medical billing process across member states for EU residents temporarily outside their home countries.

Iceland

All medical records are being centralized into one government-managed database, the Icelandic Healthnet.

Japan

Patients at the University of Tokyo Hospital’s outpatient clinic use electronic ID cards to receive pager alerts when a doctor is ready to see them. Online textbooks and medical manuals are available in exam rooms, and medical files are bar-coded and managed by a robotic system.

Sweden

In March 2005, doctors sent more than 1 million e-prescriptions to pharmacies, which are all equipped to receive and process the orders.

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The Digital Hospital

The "robot” at the Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center

The Veterans Health Administration, of all places, has embraced the computer age. Will the rest of medicine (finally) follow?

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