Health IT: Fears and Opportunities
Opinion: The choice between having an inaccurate medical record and one that leaves a patient susceptible to discrimination is not one that a free and healthy society should force its citizens to make.Less than a year after the appointment of a health IT czar and only a month into 2005, health IT has seen its share of good news. Response to health IT czar David Brailers request for feedback on his national health information network has been enthusiastic. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has received hundreds of responses. In addition, eight large technology companies have pledged support for nonproprietary standards that can serve as a common language. IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, Accenture, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard and Computer Sciences all decided that cooperation is a better bet than competition. They even recommended setting up a non-profit group, with board members appointed by HHS (Health and Human Services), to mediate any disputes. Also last month, a report was published in Health Affairs estimating that a fully interoperable system of electronic medical records could generate $78 billion of health care savings annually by increasing efficiency and curbing duplicate procedures. The numbers do assume that the systems will be a breeze to interface and free of bugs. Still, the rosy scenario does not include savings from improved health care and fewer medical errors.
Even President Bush came back with renewed zeal, pledging to find $50 million in health IT funding for 2005 to replace a request that didnt make it into the final budget passed last year, and to more than double the funding in 2006.