updated 6/16/2005 3:37:14 PM ET 2005-06-16T19:37:14

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill Frist, two senators in the mix of speculation about the White House race in 2008, touted a new medical records bill Thursday that they said is necessary to prevent life-threatening mistakes.

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Clinton, a Democrat who led President Clinton’s unsuccessful push for substantial health care overhaul in the early 1990s, said the standard of record-keeping in the United States remains “in the Dark Ages” at a time when people can easily access a wide range of information on the Internet.

The bill that Clinton is working on with Frist, the Republican Tennessean who leads his party in the Senate, would try to move the medical community away from what many believe is an over-reliance on paper records.

Clinton, who represents New York, had joined a former Republican foe, former House Speaker New Gingrich, last month to promote the medical-records bill.

'Every moment counts'
Appearing with her Thursday on NBC’s “Today” show, Frist said that the aim of the bill the pair is pushing is to set a new national standard by which some 6,000 hospitals and over 9,000 health care providers can better communicate with one another.

Frist talked of a hypothetical situation where a person might be rushed to a rural hospital suffering symptoms of a heart attack.

“Every moment counts when their medical record is not there. (Medical) History, allergies ... ,” he said. “Under our bill, we lower the cost of health care and limit errors and make the records available to the hospital, the patient and the physician.”

Clinton said lawmakers would have to ensure that such electronic records be secure and that confidential information is protected.

“But what’s happening right now is that hospitals, doctors, practices, so many other organizations, are beginning to move in this direction,” she said. “There are no standards. ... We need to have the information easily accessible.”

Where medical record-keeping is concerned, Clinton added, “We’re really in the Dark Ages. We don’t have that capacity.”

Looking for a seamless system
Clinton said the bill would “create a framework” by which hospitals and other health care facilities could upgrade their record-keeping.

“We have to make the case for it,” she said. “But I know that both Senator Frist and I are determined to move this legislation because for every month that we wait, people are spending money on these systems which may or may not make the kind of seamless system that we are looking for in this country.”

Frist, asked about his and Clinton’s possible run for the presidency, replied, “We’re both running. I’m running the Senate and she’s running for re-election.”

Clinton referred to her earlier experience at the front-line of health care policy during her husband’s first term when she was asked how big a role she thought politics would play in consideration of the bill.

“Obviously, Senator Frist has a lot more experience actually delivering health care,” she replied. “I probably have more personal scars from talking about this than anybody else. But, together we’re willing to wade into this.”

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