With the United States and countries around the world facing exploding health care costs, Intel CEO Craig Barrett argues that implementing health IT is a must to creating a workable health care system in his keynote at the annual Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society conference.
As U.S. health care costs continue to expand from consuming 15 percent of GDP to an estimated 25 percent within a few decades, health IT could be the key to increasing efficiency and enhancing quality while controlling expenses, according to Barrett.
Traditional approaches to solving the problem of health care costs arent an option, he asserts. Increasing taxes on employees or the burden on employers to support increasing health care costs wont work because of the ever-eroding job base due to international competition, and Americans will never accept the rationing health care, says Barrett.
The only logical solution, he said, is to increase efficiency and quality through the implementation of health IT. "If we dont use technology to help the system, were going to price ourselves out of it," he concludes.
But while the need for health IT is clear, Barrett urgently explains that the leadership toward this change has so far been lacking.
He suggests that the primary impetus for change will come from large employers and payers wielding their purchasing power to require interoperable medical records.
Although the federal government is a major purchaser, Barrett said he doesnt believe they will effectively wield their purchasing power to encourage large-scale adoption of health IT.
He does, however, applaud health IT implementations at some federal agencies like the Veterans Administration.
Barrett likens the shift needed in health care to the transition from mainframe computing to a client-server model. Patients are now too often reliant on the centralized hospital which cannot effectively address their continuing care needs.
Instead, he suggests that the health care delivery system will increasingly allow distributed access for patients and health care providers.
He identifies several technologies as examples of this growing trend including: a wearable body suit from Accenture that allows the remote monitoring of over 30 vital signs; a cell phone that allows diabetics to prick their finger, test their blood sugar level and transmit the results that is currently in deployment in Korea to only about 1,000 users; and a lung capacity monitor attached to a PC to read results and transmit them.
But before these technologies can become a widespread reality, Barrett urges that creating standards to ensure interoperability must be achieved by the industry itself before the government steps in with mandatory standards.
He offers the wireless industry as an example of how to cooperatively agree upon and implement standards through an industry group.
Barrett concluded with a call to action for the gathering of health IT industry leaders. "The current system doesnt work; we have to fix it."