Intel CEO Paul Otellini believes the national debate around health care reform needs to move away from doctors in hospital and toward individuals in their homes.
Weighing in on the issue that is at the forefront of the Obama administration's agenda, Otellini in an op-ed piece in Politico July 27 argued that the old way of people traveling to a central hospital after getting sick no longer can hold up in an era of growing numbers of uninsured and underinsured people and with $2.4 trillion in health care costs.
Instead, policy makers should be looking at what Otellini called a "personal health" strategy that shifts the responsibility of a person's well-being from only being on caregivers and puts more of it on the individual.
He also said that advancements in technology and communications have reached the point where such a strategy makes sense.
"We require a cultural reformation-a new social covenant in which each of us becomes more informed, engaged and proactive about our health, wellness and care," Otellini wrote. "True cost savings and quality improvements in health care will come from providing incentives for-and using modern technologies to enable-better prevention, early detection, self-care, chronic disease management and adherence to care plans that custom-fit our personal lives."
Like other technology vendors, Intel sees a huge opportunity in health care to not only ring up profits, but also improve the way health care is delivered. Intel-which has a Digital Health Group unit-and General Electric in April announced an initiative in which the companies will invest $250 million over the next five years to develop health care IT solutions.
More recently, Cisco Systems earlier this month announced a venture with UnitedHealth Group to create a network that will enable doctors to reach patients virtually, bringing health care to such underserved areas as rural communities and urban centers.
Otellini said that enhancements in technology and communications have improved the way people conduct business in just about every industry except health care. He pointed to the financial services space, where fewer and fewer people need to travel to a building to do their banking. Instead, they have a host of financial services available to them online.
"We have a more personal, engaged and proactive role in the management of our own finances-with experts who can help from both bricks-and-mortar and online locations in our communities," Otellini wrote. "So, too, we must invent and invest in a distributed model of personal health."
He broke out five recommendations for policy makers in addressing the health care debate, including pushing a personal health care initiative, paying doctors and nurses based on outcomes and performances-rather than on face-to-face patient visits-and creating a system where every patient has a person coordinating their care plan, a move that would require basic IT capabilities such as electronic health records.
Otellini also suggested using comparative effectiveness funding "to evaluate the benefits and trade-offs of a wide range of person health technologies," including secure doctor-patient e-mail, electronic medicine prescriptions, remote patient monitoring and telehealth, video consultation and online community support. The last recommendation was the creation of a competitive personal health work force of "virtual care clinicians."
Otellini said he does see technology and innovation as the only answer to the country's health care issues.
"But we should not believe that we can produce one right answer for how to do health care for the next 100 years or that we can sustain our expensive and inefficient pilgrimage model of medicine," he wrote. "Aiming for a home-centric personal health vision-and designing our policy, expectations and infrastructure so that we can continuously innovate health care-will help achieve the reformation we need."