WASHINGTON—Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson on Wednesday presented a plan for building a national health care information infrastructure to improve health care technology.
Thompson, along with Dr. David Brailer, the recently-appointed National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, outlined the 10-year plan for an audience of policy makers and health IT industry leaders at the Secretarial Summit on Health Information Technology here.
“Today the decade of health information technology innovation has been launched,” said Thompson.
The objectives of the plan are to bring electronic health records into physician offices and hospitals; to build an interoperable health information infrastructure that connects clinicians; to allow increased consumer access to health information; and to improve population health by facilitating public health monitoring, quality of care measurement and clinical research.
The highly-anticipated plan comes just a few months after the creation of the health IT coordinator position and the appointment of Brailer. Brailer was given a target of 90 days to complete his initial recommendations for action, but actually delivered it in 76 days. A seemingly weary Brailer joked that this demonstrated the urgency of the project.
Indeed, Thompson said, “We have reached a tipping point as far as technology is concerned. I think, finally, health care technology has arrived.”
Thompson ran through a litany of industries that have become completely technology-dependent, ranging from banking to the media. “Virtually every other sector of the economy is charging ahead into the 21st century, its time for health care to catch up,” he argued.
Americans spend more resources on health care than the citizens of any other nation. Health care spending represents more than $1.3 trillion dollars, or 15 percent of the national economy, yet Americans only get the appropriate treatment for medical conditions 55 percent of the time, according to a Rand study cited by Thompson.
He went on to argue that implementing effective health IT could save $130 billion a year—or about 10 percent of nations health spending—by eliminating redundant testing and enabling more effective treatment.
Thompson demonstrated considerable concern that health care is so far behind other industry sectors. “If you have a pet dog, they have an electronic record,” he said. “You get an electronic reminder to update the dogs shots, dont you think we should do that for children?”