Thursday, October 30, 2008

Will Health Care IT Get a Leg Up Under the New President?

One thing that both of our current contenders for the Oval Office have in common is the fact that they both support the use of information technology to help fix our broken system. Since every poll I have seen for the past year agrees that reform is vital, and this approach is one that is central to George C. Halvorson's views on the subject, I would say this is a very good thing.

For analysis, I would like to avoid the usual round of health care publications and instead take a look at Information Week where Marianne Kolbasuk McGee is at it again -- writing intelligent and insightful commentary about IT and health care, that is.

Regardless of the outcome of the presidential election, there's potential for a lot of change in the health care industry in the next four years. Barack Obama and John McCain have very different visions when it comes to health care reform, but there is one thing they both have in common, and that's an emphasis on using technology to digitize patient records and eliminate paper-based processes that are inefficient, redundant, costly, and potentially deadly.
Now we all know that implementation of these sort of systems is a costly scenario, one that many providers balk at. As we watch the bizarre and disturbing ups and downs that Wall Street and the economy have been undergoing, one could easily assume that costly measures like EMRs would be back-burnered while other more seemingly pressing issues get funded.

At least one Senator disagrees:

"We need to make money available for direct grants" and via other avenues to promote the deployment of IT in health care, said Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (and Democratic presidential nominee in 2004) during a keynote speech in Boston yesterday at a technology symposium put on by the Center for Connected-Health, a division of Partners HealthCare, which operates several Boston area hospitals, including Mass General and Brigham & Women's.

Health care reform can't be deferred by the weak economy because health care is such a big part of the economy -- or $1 out of every $6 dollars spent in the United States, says Kerry. Addressing the health care system's big cost issues will "help the economy move," he says.

One-sixth of the economy. A perversely incented system, to use Mr. Halvorson's words, that is rife with redundancies and top heavy with bureaucracy is one sixth of the American economy. This fact alone should help put things into perspective. For an excellent summation of the situation and the options before us, go take a quick moment and read Ms. McGee's latest. As always, it is a highly informative gem of a column!

SOURCE: "Could Health Care IT Get A Boost Next Year?" 10/28/08
photo courtesy of Violator3, used under its Creative Commons license

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