President Obama Wise To Invest in Healthcare IT

I shy away from openly discussing politics in my personal and professional life.  But I think it is fair to say that the current administration has abandoned what was once a significant agenda to advance health care information technology.

One could argue that the national defense issues rightly made healthcare IT less of a priority for the executive branch.  Add on top of that the recent national economic woes and I had little reason for optimism that electronic health records would surface as a top political priority for the new administration.

So, I was delighted when the president-elect recently served notice that healthcare reform remains a significant part of his plan:

“We’re also going to focus on one of the biggest long-run challenges that our budget faces, namely the rising cost of health care in both the public and private sectors. This is not just a challenge, but also an opportunity to improve the health care that Americans rely on and to bring down the costs that taxpayers, businesses and families have to pay.”

Moreover, electronic health records are a central component to his healthcare reform plan:

“If we do a smart job of investing in health care modernization — let’s just say, as an example, helping local hospitals and providers set up electronic billing and electronic medical records, that experts across the spectrum consider to be an important step towards a more efficient health care system.

Now, somebody’s got to help set those up. We’ve got to buy computer systems and so forth. That’s an immediate boost to the economy, in some cases working with state and local governments, but it’s also laying the groundwork for reducing our health care costs over the long term.”

Certainly we have a great story to tell in central and northern Wisconsin.  Ministry Health Care and Marshfield Clinic are implementing an EHR setting aside competitive interests to put patients first.  In doing so we will provide integrated care in such a way as to eliminate duplicate testing, actively manage preventive care and eliminate wasteful paper-work.  I believe we are doing exactly the kind of work that the president-elect has advocated.  I strongly support the direction he has described.

I also support president-elect Obama’s baseball affiliation.  Many of you know I am a long-time White Sox fan.  The best day of my life was the surprise 40th birthday party my wife threw for me at then Comiskey park.  So, I enjoyed this exchange between Obama and a Chicago reporter:

“I’m going to call on Steve Thomma. Where’s Steve? And the reason I’m going to call on Steve, I understand that, as a lifelong White Sox fan, you were placed in the Cubs section yesterday, and I want to apologize for that. This is also part of the new way of doing business. When we make mistakes, we admit them.”

7 thoughts on “President Obama Wise To Invest in Healthcare IT

  1. Of course, there are many points of disagreement on healthcare reform and numerous difficult decisions and compromises to be hammered out. But there’s also widespread agreement on at least two critical reform requirements.

    — Electronic health records (EHR). Bringing together the major medical systems has been a priority of current HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt, and will likely be backed by his probable successor Tom Daschle. EHR adoption is still low, so the opportunity is real and big.
    — Evidence-based medicine. Stakeholders agree that all efforts and systems should be based on sound medical science and published literature. The new systems need to assure and deliver quality, consistent care, incorporating the best diagnostic and quality care guidelines. These guidelines need to be available at the patient’s bedside as well as throughout payer and provider organizations.

    These two concepts give us a starting point for the emerging health reform compromise. I’m looking forward to seeing more points of agreement emerge as the reform conversation gains volume.

    Possibilities? http://www.healthcaretownhall.com

  2. Leadership sometimes comes from strange quarters, and is perhaps not always intended. Consider Walmart entering the EMR market … http://news.cnet.com/Wal-Mart-to-market-digital-health-records-system/2100-1038_3-6249213.html?tag=newsEditorsPicksArea.0

    What they’ve done, is to throw down a challenge to all of us to do more, quickly, with less money.

    Most providers will not find Walmart an attractive option, for lots of reasons. But all of us should pause, and consider. Can we do our own EMR more quickly? Can we do it with less money? Is a highly-engineered, customized system what we need, at least day one?

    • Jay, it is always great to hear from you. Walmart is not the first industry titan to dip their tow in the healthcare space. I have seen Ameritech, American Express, Altel, and IBM enter the electronic records world followed by hasty exits. All of them were going to teach us folks in healthcare what we are doing wrong.

      I don’t see how buying software at Walmart will speed the rollout of EHRs. The part that takes so long is integration with the other healthcare entities. Doctors want to order tests from the hospitals and receive the results back electronically. The standards to do this are closer to non-existent than complete. We can go faster if our goal is to own software. But my organization’s goal is to improve the quality of care and efficiency. We need to work through a lot of provider and hospital integration details first.

  3. Agreed … Walmart will not have a BIG impact. And almost certainly none in the inpatient world. I can see a conversation somewhere in the corporate healthcare world between a harried CIO and a frustrated physician (who does not even work for the hospital) with the MD saying …if Walmart can do this then why does it take you so long?

    If the CIO can explain why … then maybe the answers will be in a tiny tilt away from a philosophy of highly engineered customization … a little ways toward “commoditized” or “standardized” …

    And that might help. A little.

    Hope you are enjoying HIMSS!

  4. Pingback: President Obama Wise To Invest in Healthcare IT | EMR Blog

  5. Pingback: Government Initiatives | EMR Blog

  6. Well The measures to manage this are nearer to non-existent than complete. We can proceed much quicker if our aim is to own software. But my organization’s aim is to advance the value of care and efficiency. We require to work through many of provider and clinic integration minutia first.

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