.S. Playing Catch Up in Health Care IT">Health care IT in the U.S. lags behind that of many other countries, such as Denmark and New Zealand, but the prognosis is for gradual improvement if the country continues a steady regimen of investment and development. Dr. Paul Grundy, director of health-care technology and strategic initiatives at IBM Corp. in Armonk, N.Y., said the U.S. HIT (Health Information Technology) system is fragmented but is slowly progressing. Grundy, who is a physician and a founding member of the Patient Centered Primary Care Collaborative, said, "I think were making some progress, but weve got a long ways to go.""What we really want in terms of the state of HIT is to enable improvements in collaboration and practice-based quality improvements," Grundy said. "We want providers to be able to utilize registries" and electronic records, he added. Moreover, electronic records drive transformation and change in the system, fosters closer doctor/patient relationships and enables doctors to engage patients more easily, Grundy said. Steve Shihadeh, GM sales, marketing and partners for Microsoft Corp.s Health Solutions Group, said the health care landscape is very complicated and often times very disjointed as hospitals and health systems, insurance and physicians, general practice physicians, and consumers all interact in a complicated ecosystem. "The reality is that most hospitals have islands of data that cant easily be shared with other systems due to disparate data types," Shihadeh said. "Hospitals until very recently have lagged behind almost every other industry group in the percentage of revenue that is invested in IT [spending only three percent]. Thats up significantly in the last couple years. However, even hospitals at the high end of the spending curve in terms of IT investments are only doing transactional systems." Grundy said, "We want to have the kinds of tools within the HIT infrastructure so that physicians can deliver safe medical care." For instance, Grundy said Denmark is known for having the most advanced HIT system in the world. And on a recent trip to Denmark, Grundy said he was invited to witness a Danish doctor interacting with patients. "The doctor had a full electronic medical record of each patient and the patient can view their medical record from home, Grundy said. One patient came into the office and was diagnosed to need an aortic valve replacement. Using the integrated Danish HIT system, "the patient and the doctor looked at every hospital in the country that did aortic valve replacements," he said. They were able to get statistics and reviews on each facility and were able to choose one and to schedule surgery through the system. In another instance, Grundy said a patient came to the doctor seeking a remedy for lack of sleep. The doctor filed a prescription through the HIT system with a pharmacist. Yet, before the patient left the office, the pharmacist returned a message to the doctor noting a possible relation to the patients asthma and the doctor was able to solve the patients problems by treating his asthma, Grundy said. Moreover, in the Danish system, patients have greater access to call doctors for a fee and "patients can e-mail their doctor and the doctor gets paid for that" as well, he said. Randall Oates, M.D., who is president of SOAPware Inc., Fayetteville, Ark., the company that sells an electronic medical record system known as SOAPware, said that what is missing from the U.S. HIT system "are patient-centered approaches to HIT. The patient has to be able to administer and monitor the exchange of their personal health information." Next Page: U.S. Playing Catch Up in Health Care IT
Grundy said he spoke at a medical advisory counsel meeting in Washington on Aug. 6 where the issues of HIT were prominent among the 10 largest companies buying health care for their employees.