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1/31/2012
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Bipartisan Think Tank Tackles Health IT Costs

Bipartisan Policy Center also challenges government and health organizations to devise uniform specs on which to base patient care by June 2013.

Health Data Security: Tips And Tools
Health Data Security: Tips And Tools
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If the U.S. wants to make full use of the federal govenment's $30 billion investment in health IT, it must ensure several things happen, says a new report released Friday by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC).

Stakeholders must advance the development of health information exchanges (HIEs), further increase the adoption of electronic health records, encourage consumers to use electronic tools to coordinate care, and gain public trust by ensuring that patient health data is kept private and secure, recommends the report, Transforming Health Care: The Role of Health IT.

The report comes a few weeks before the third anniversary of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, and assesses the progress made since the Act became law, examines the gaps in care that still need to be addressed, and looks at the potential that health IT can deliver to a healthcare system that is still mired in paper-based records.

The report points out that "coordinated, accountable and patient-centered models of care delivery--previously implemented by only a handful of organizations--are poised for more-widespread adoption to promote much-needed improvements in the cost and quality of health care." The BPC's Task Force on Delivery System Reform and Health Information Technology sought to find out whether investments in the HITECH Act are on the right trajectory to support these new models of care.

"We are making lots of investments," said Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), former Senate Majority Leader and BPC co-chair, at an event held Friday in Washington, D.C., to unveil the report. "Are these investments making a difference? Are they really laying a strong foundation for a coordinated, vertically and horizontally integrated [and] yes possibly more consolidated health system?"

[ Is it time to re-engineer your clinical decision support system? See 10 Innovative Clinical Decision Support Programs. ]

Frist, a heart surgeon, said the report addresses these questions. He also observed that health IT innovations in healthcare are making a significant difference in moving the U.S. healthcare system to a higher level of efficiency that can drive costs down.

Information technology systems should "allow somebody to stay home, to do their daily weights and their daily blood pressure, and have that [data] instantaneously sent to their care team to prevent that readmission, to prevent that ultimate heart failure and to prevent maybe even a transplant," Frist said. "The data can help us better understand what value is--value being the equation of outcome and results divided by dollars."

Tom Daschle, (D-S.D.) former Senate Majority Leader and BPC co-chair, said health IT has enjoyed bipartisan support for many years, and noted the report's recommendations will help healthcare stakeholders focus on the ways in which health IT investments can improve healthcare delivery.

Besides greater use of health IT, the report also stressed the need for better coordination among federal, state, and private sector purchasers as well as health insurers who must align incentives and payment with higher quality and greater cost efficiency in healthcare.

"By no later than June 30, 2013, the federal government and private sector payers should review, align and agree upon uniform specifications for a core set of performance measures, enabling federally funded and private sector programs with the same measurement objective (e.g., care of patients with diabetes) to utilize the same metrics," the report said.

When are emerging technologies ready for clinical use? In the new issue of InformationWeek Healthcare, find out how three promising innovations--personalized medicine, clinical analytics, and natural language processing--show the trade-offs. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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