Healthcare Technology Featured Article

January 30, 2012

Study: Everyone Must Work Together to Make Healthcare IT Work

They haven’t been too happy together in a long time, but when it comes to health care, and dollars, the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, founded by former Senate majority leaders, has decided to unite to recommend how federal dollars can “most effectively be used on health information technology initiatives.”

The story reports that many of the recommendations are for initiatives already underway, although quite a few are just getting started. For instance, the center calls for “government and private purchasers and health plans to align incentives and payments with higher quality, care coordination and outcomes, enabled with I.T.,” part of the health care reform act signed by President Obama in 2009, the story relates.

Also in line with the reform act, the center calls for the speeding-up of “health information exchanges and use of consumer health I.T. tools; private sector expansion of support for I.T. training and implementation assistance based on lessons from the federally sponsored college programs; further alignment of policies and programs with health I.T.; and comprehensive and clear guidance for privacy and security laws, including a national strategy for accurate patient matching,” according to the story.

The center notes that, though most of our life is now consumed with tablets, smart phones and other forms of mobile communications, “the U.S. health care system remains largely paper-based.” The story notes that using I.T. to improve healthcare delivery is a goal shared by both Republicans and Democrats.

There are signs, though, that this all may be changing. “The authorization of up to $30 billion to support health IT under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 has spurred significant private sector investment to further increase the use of health IT,” the story reports. “Most of these funds are for the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs, known informally as ‘Meaningful Use,’ that reward clinicians and hospitals when they use EHRs in specific meaningful ways to improve care.”

Julian Pecquet at the Bipartisan Policy Center writes that everyone – federal, state and private sector officials – must all work “more closely together if physicians -- and their patients -- are to make the switch to 21st century electronic medical records,” quoting a recent center report.

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Deborah DiSesa Hirsch is an award-winning health and technology writer who has worked for newspapers, magazines and IBM in her 20-year career. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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