08 May Doyle asks health professionals to overcome barriers
Madison, Wis. — Jim Doyle told a gathering of health professionals attending the eHealth Summit that he wants to be the governor of the first state to have a fully integrated electronic medical records system, but he’ll need their help to overcome barriers.
Speaking before a group of healthcare executives, medical professionals, and IT-focused health professionals working on the state’s eHealth Initiative, Doyle said those barriers include organizational jealousies and jurisdictional and proprietary boundaries that historically get in the way of progress.
“You’re not here to push anyone’s system aside,” he said. “Our goal is to make systems interoperable so that medical records can be transferred.”
Last November, Doyle signed an executive order creating the eHealth Quality and Patient Safety Board, and directed it to develop a plan to automate all healthcare information systems in Wisconsin. Among the stated goals of the eHealth Initiative are to reduce the incidence of medical errors in hospitals and other healthcare settings, and reduce overall healthcare costs for the private and public sectors. Doyle has cited statistics indicating that 30% of healthcare spending, up to $300 billion nationally, is inappropriate, redundant, or unnecessary.
During the eHealth Summit, he attributed much of the health system’s woes to the consequences of poor record keeping, including old-fashioned paper systems. He said Wisconsin is uniquely positioned to create a modern record system that improves the delivery of healthcare and reduces costs. “As I make this challenge to you, I make is as the governor of a state that has all the pieces to get this done,” he said.
Those pieces, he said, include large insurance companies, health maintenance organizations, and hospital systems, many of which have already invested heavily in information technology. They also include two of the world’s leading developers of electronic health records software, Epic Systems and GE Medical.
Doyle has declared May 1-7 Healthcare Information Technology Week, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Fluno Center has hosted both the eHealthcare Summit and WTN Media’s Digital Healthcare Conference. During the Digital Healthcare Conference, speakers identified several of the remaining barriers to implementing workable electronic health records, and Doyle picked up on that theme. He said those working on the eHealth Initiative would need to agree on protocols for point-of-entry, the assignment of identification numbers, the use of records, and protecting patient privacy.
The eHealth Initiative is not likely to capture headlines or lead evening newscasts, Doyle said, but it will be vital for the average person who wants access to the best possible healthcare. “This, to me, is a challenge that really draws on some of the basic values that we have in this state,” he said.
Making no direct mention of the millions of dollars lost on several large information technology projects in state agencies, the governor spoke in general terms about the difficulties of IT projects. “Half of them work and half of them don’t,” he said, noting that even the ones that work take twice as long to implement than originally promised.
Interestingly, Doyle also challenged the gathering to set a realistic timetable for the eHealth Initiative. One of the complaints about the state’s troubled IT optimization project, where implementation delays and cost overruns are the subject of a state audit, is that it had an overly ambitious timetable.
“We may have to kick you and push you a little bit to get this done, but please realize we do this out of love and respect,” he said, drawing laughs from the audience.
Helene Nelson, secretary of state Department of Health and Family Services, is overseeing the eHealth Initiative. She said the state’s IT optimization project has not impacted the initiative, which is in its formative stages. “It’s completely unrelated, really,” she said. “This [initiative] is about bringing together stakeholders to find a solution.”