.S. Playing Catch Up in Health Care IT"> The problem is not everybody has access to systems that support the CCR. SOAPware supports CCR as do other electronic health record offerings. "Its going to be the presence of affordable electronic medical record systems in the marketplace that is going to drive uptake" of things like the CCR, Grundy said.In May, IBM pledged to dedicate its influence, technologies, services and knowledge base to help the PCPCC (Patient Centered Primary Care Collaborative)the emerging consortium of employers, physicians and consumer groups that Grundy co-founded with Dr. Martin Sepulveda, IBM vice president, Global Well-being Services & Health Benefitswin its fight to revolutionize Americas ailing health care system. Among its many initiatives, the PCPCC is pushing the use of Electronic Patient Health records and Web portals to connect patients to their own data, allow communication with PCPs (primary care physicians), renew their prescriptions and review information concerning their overall health situations. Such Web-based systems have driven scores of millions in savings in nations like Denmark, systems like the Veterans Administration and Medicaid in states like North Carolina, Grundy said. "Were really a long ways behind [many other countries in health care IT] in many, many ways, with some exceptions like the VA [Veterans Administration]," Grundy said. "But in terms of my ability to buy health care across the country with connections and interoperability, were behind." The PCPCC to date represents employers of some 50 million people across the United States as well as physician groups representing some 330,000 medical doctors. And the group is working to effect change, but it is gradual. In the United States, the health care industry is a $2 trillion dollar industry, with more than $100 billion spent on IT, researchers estimate. And health care IT spending is forecasted to grow at near double digit rates for the next decade, some say. For the United States, this represents 16 percent of GDP with annual increase projected at 7.7 percent through 2010. The largest health care provider in the United States is the federal government. In a study entitled "Behind the Numbers: Health Care Cost Trends for 2008," PricewaterhouseCoopers analysts said: The deceleration in the medical cost trend is influenced by a number of short- and long-term factors. For 2008, our research has identified those factors as: Slower spending growth for prescription drugs; increased transparency and cost sharing with employees; total-health-management approach to benefits; and broadening of the digital backbone in health care." The study by PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute, said, "The digital backbone that connects health providers, payers, and vendors is expanding. Connecting the health system electronically will aid payers in better managing both performance and compliance throughout the continuum of care." For example, widespread adoption of electronic medical records and other health information technology is estimated to save $162 billion a year by improving care management, reducing preventable medical errors, lowering death rates from chronic disease and reducing the number of employee sick days, the Pricewaterhouse Coopers study said. Yet, "Making the digital backbone a reality stems from progress on two issues that have long been cited as barriers to health IT adoption: lack of national standards and interoperability," the PwC study said. Finally, the PwC study concludes: "While still in its early stages, the potential to improve quality and reduce variation in provider practice patterns will be strengthened as the digital backbone continues to strengthen." Next Page: U.S. Playing Catch Up in Health Care IT
Meanwhile, a recent Commonwealth Fund/Modern Health care survey showed that 66 percent of 214 health care policy leaders surveyed said they think that rapid adoption of electronic health records and other IT systems is of primary importance. And 70 percent of the respondents said they think the federal government should play a leading role in backing providers IT investments.