Is Lack of Coordination Hurting Health IT?

By M.L. Baker  |  Posted 2004-10-25

Is Lack of Coordination Hurting Health IT?

Attendees of last weekends Health Information Technology Summit contacted by said they came away convinced that efforts to implement widespread health IT are getting off to a solid start. They also agreed on some chief barriers to implementing health IT: misaligned financial incentives and a lack of integrated, easy-to-use products.

More than 800 people representing vendors, health care providers and public health officials attended the Health Information Technology Summit, held in Washington.

The summit featured high-profile speakers including David Brailer, national health IT coordinator; Mark McClellan, administrator at CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services); and Carolyn M. Clancy, director of AHRQ ( Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality). The conference was organized by eHI (eHealth Initiative), a nonprofit, multi-stakeholder organization.

Cathey Lawson, an account executive at Initiate Systems Inc., attended a similar conference in July, which at the time represented Brailers most significant appearance since being appointed to office.

Though overarching initiatives were announced at the time, media reports criticized the details as too vague. Initiate Systems provides software and systems to manage patient and provider identities.

Lawson said that when she heard large companies endorsing the initiatives in July, she wondered whether it was a cheerleading session or a viable plan. Now, shes decided on the latter. "Its starting to take on the aspect not just of realness but of progress," she said.

Rich Gliklich, CEO of Outcome Inc., who spoke at a Saturday morning panel on how to improve outcomes by engaging patients and consumers, agreed but acknowledged some growing pains.

"A lot is happening in the e-health space; not all of it is coordinated," Gliklich said. "Theres an intent but still a struggle to get to common standards. Theres still a tension in whats ideal and whats practical."

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Outcome provides Web-based tools that automatically customize established treatment guidelines for patient characteristics and help hospitals monitor, report and improve compliance with guidelines for stroke and cardiovascular disease.

Nonetheless, he said, the government has created real momentum. "The CMS initiative in e-health has made a huge impact convincing people that they must act in unison to accomplish goals." Lawson said that since efforts to enhance health cares use of IT is endorsed by both political parties, the momentum should continue whatever the outcome of the upcoming presidential election.

She added that some physician leaders are making career moves to become more involved in health IT, signaling a belief that the field will expand in scope and importance.

Lorraine Fernandes, senior vice president of Initiate Systems health care practice, seemed most impressed with efforts in data-sharing through some of the regional health information organizations. Their efforts could be used as laboratories to work out legal, competitive, privacy and technology issues.

"Youve got to help the health care delivery system overcome that basic skepticism about sharing data," she said. They need to realize that "it wont save money upfront, but it will in the long run."

Such efforts are being encouraged by $139 million in grants from the Department of Health and Human Services.

But she said efforts still need more federal funding help, both in demonstration projects and in incentive programs to reward quality. And, she said, these programs need a way to be self-sustaining after the grant funding runs out.

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