25 Jun Healthcare Technology – On top of the national agenda
Kerry launches TV campaign to stress healthcare IT
MADISON – A growing number of physicians and IT professionals are passionately collaborating to improve patient safety and the overall quality of healthcare. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have jumped in and are pledging support, in a big way. Federal health officials, CIO’s and physician leaders gathered Wednesday at the Digital Healthcare Conference at the University of Wisconsin. They discussed how information technology holds the key to better health care. At the same time, Senator John Kerry launched a 13-state ad campaign that challenges the rising costs of healthcare – and the importance of technology for the industry.
President George W. Bush and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson want a paperless health care system in 10 years or less. In a speech delivered April 27, President Bush proclaimed that health care in America is in desperate need of aid, citing a “21st century health care system [which] uses a 19th century paperwork system.”
Kerry’s 30-second spot, dubbed “Paperwork“, notes that $350 billion of the $1.6 trillion spent on healthcare in the U.S. has nothing to do with care. The commercial focuses attention on Kerry’s healthcare proposal, which calls for universal electronic medical records by 2008, a goal he said, can be achieved by offering providers and payers a “technology bonus” for using electronic records and other healthcare information technology tools.
Kerry now joins Bush who has health-IT as a centerpiece of his health campaign. The President has pledged to make electronic medical records for all Americans, a reality within 10 years. He appointed a new health-IT czar, David J. Brailer, M.D., PhD. The President is pushing executive branch agencies to identify ways to offer incentives for technology use and healthcare quality initiatives.
This is a bi-partisan issue with some unusual partners who have similar views on this issue and includes both Newt Gingrich and Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA). Kennedy introduced legislation on May 13, and said, “Information technology can also improve the quality of care, at the same time it reduces costs. Automated patient record-keeping can help bring real coordination to what is often a frighteningly fragmented health care system.”
Congresswoman Nancy L. Johnson (R-CT), Chairman, Subcommittee on Health of the Committee on Ways and Means, began hearings on June 17 to hear witness’s oral testimony. In a prepared statement the committee said, “Greater use of IT in the health care field has the potential to reduce medical errors and improve patient care. Many innovative IT projects are underway in both the public and private sectors. Yet widespread adoption of IT in the health care sector has been anemic. “
In an interview with the Wisconsin Technology Network HHS Secretary Thompson said, “I would like to take some of the approximately $1.2 billion we collect from fraud and abuse fines, from doctors and providers that do something fraudulent to the federal government, in order to get dollars. I’m suggesting, but have not been able to get support yet, that we take 50 percent of those dollars and set up a mini-Halliburton law or technology fund to transform hospitals and clinics to a more modern and consistent technology.
The nonprofit Institute of Medicine has said up to 100,000 people die each year from medical errors. Many professionals believe that rate could be cut dramatically, and costs reduced as well.
William A. Yasnoff, MD, PhD, FACMI, Sr. Advisor, National Health Information Infrastructure and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who delivered a keynote address at the Digital Healthcare Conference, discussed how the health care industry, which drives almost one-seventh of the national economy, currently, faces inconsistent quality and high error, rates due to its outdated systems. Yasnoff shared the vision for a network of systems and files that operate in concert to streamline the sharing of information. He argued that the most viable solution for existing problems is using information technology, citing it as the best method to provide “anywhere, anytime health care information and decision support.” The NHII system, according to Yasnoff, also has the potential to provide $131 billion of net savings.
Dr. Chaiken, Chief Medical Officer for the non-profit patient safety organization, ABQAURP called for improved use of clinical IT to reduce medical errors. “The conference brought together visionaries, developers, engineers and end users to help with the development of a detailed road map for enhanced patient safety that meets the needs of all stakeholders.”
Jeffrey Grossman, MD, CEO of UW Medical Foundation said. “Information technology really can be the link between our hearts and minds and we need to use it.” Dr. Grossman called for physician leaders to develop a vision that embraces and leverages technology to improve health care while dismissing the notion that current technology is inadequate to improve patient care.