Four important trends for 2004: 1. It takes a system. A patients health is not in the hands of an individual but in the hands of a team of specialists spread across hospitals, outpatient facilities and specialty facilities. Unfortunately, members of the team are only dimly aware that its other members even exist, even if they work in the building. The IOM (Institute of Medicine) blames the bulk of medical errors on health care fragmentation, not on individual providers.2. Interoperability. Physicians, the government and other stakeholders are insisting that devices work together. A congressional advisory committee on interoperability was founded, as was a new interoperability steering committee within HIMSS (Health Information Management Systems Society). To read more about the committees goals for interoperability, click here. 3. Consorting. To make sure interoperability happens, and to represent their stakeholder interests, several consortia were founded this year. E-prescribing supporters, EHR vendors and others came together within their fields with the idea of bringing down barriers to selling their technology. Whats more, members of different groups are now talking to each other more frequently. 4. Opening wallets. Both the government and, more reluctantly, the payers are increasingly willingin principle at leastto pay for health IT, including interacting with clinicians over the Internet and e-prescribing. Next Page: Some of 2004s most promising products.
Though were not there yet, IT promises to move patients care into an organized system specifically set up to prevent errors, increase preventive care such as vaccinations and gauge its own performance.