Obama on call


Five television cameras and half a dozen reporters lined up in the Comer Children's Hospital lobby this morning to hear Illinois' junior senator, Barack Obama, promote federal legislation aimed at improving health information technology. Obama joined GOP Senator Bill Frist and Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton in introducing the bill June 16.

"Too much health care is still provided by pen and paper," said Obama, a former Law School lecturer, contributing to medical errors that kill up to 98,000 Americans each year. The proposed legislation would provide grants for local health-care providers to computerize medical records, and it would establish a national coordinator of health information technology to develop standards and make sure records are secure.

Obama listened while U of C officials touted the Hospitals' own technology plans. Hospitals CIO Eric Yablonka said Chicago already has begun a $70 million technology update. Next assistant professor of medicine Alex Lickerman, AB'88, MD'92, praised the legislation, noting that electronic medical records help "patient care keep up with scientific advancement," allow physicians to see what patients' other doctors have prescribed or diagnosed, and improve clinical research by keeping information in a database.

After Obama noted, for full disclosure's sake, that his wife works at the Hospitals (she's vice president for community affairs) and his two daughters were born there, he opened it up for questions. How, one reporter asked, would the legislation protect patient privacy? Does it provide enough money, another wondered, to do the job? Then, because they had the senator's attention, the journalists quizzed him on other news of the day: a potential new Supreme Court nominee, the Ten Commandments decision handed down this morning, the war in Iraq, and a state video-interrogation law.


Photos: Obama drew several local media outlets (top); Obama stands by as assistant professor of medicine Alex Lickerman hails electronic medical records (bottom).

June 27, 2005