Health information technology (IT) wins many honorable mentions. It is viewed by respected analysts and presidential candidates in both parties as a tool with the potential to save lives, improve efficiency and increase the overall quality of our health care delivery system.
It is also touted as a possible way to cut health care costs. A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office, however, found that health IT alone is not sufficient to reduce costs by much.
This briefing considered the idea that adoption of health information technology is about much more than saving money. For instance, it has been known for more than a decade that medication errors which cost lives or increase morbidity can be reduced through the use of computerized prescribing of orders and drugs. Yet, as of 2006, only about 12 percent of physicians and 11 percent of hospitals had adopted such tools.
And little change was noted in a soon-to-be-released Harvard study. Typical medical records are still kept in paper files, leading to fragmentation of information and lack of timely communication among physicians, hospitals, labs and pharmacies for any given patient.
What lessons about quality improvement can be learned from physicians, hospitals and integrated delivery systems that are using electronic medical records? What are the barriers to adoption and existing market disincentives? What role does the federal government play in promoting the adoption of health IT systems? What role should it play? Will Medicare lead the way?
To address these and related questions, the Alliance for Health Reform and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation sposored a June 20 briefing. Speakers were: Peter Orszag, Congressional Budget Office; Sara Rosenbaum, George Washington University; and Janet Wright, American College of Cardiology. Ed Howard of the Alliance and John Lumpkin of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation co-moderated.
Full Transcript (Adobe Acrobat PDF)