Friday, January 16, 2009

David Brailer Weighs in on Health Information Technology

David Brailer writes on the Healthaffairs site with guidance to the incoming President on key reforms to our health care systems. The pledge he refers to of $50 Billion does not appear to jive with the released "American Recovery Reinvestment Act of 2009" (pdf file) draft report that features $20 overall for healthcare + $4.1 billion for preventative health care but relative to the previous investments this is a significant program.

He highlights 4 key areas:

The chasm between the have and have not's - not of health care but of EMR's but rightly he says
We should not incent physicians and hospitals simply to purchase electronic records. We get no benefit when a physician or hospital buys an electronic record. What we should do is reward the use of these tools as part of a patient’s care. “Pay for use” can fund the conversion of the health care system to digital records and ensure that we get the life-saving and money saving benefits they promise
I agree - just buying these expensive systems and funding them seems a flawed strategy and we will just end up with a bunch of unused EMR systems.

Second - the need to build a workforce to enable the digitization of health care - 50,000 people by his reckoning, of people who understand both clinical medicine and information technology. Already in short supply and years in the making. This is right on the money (and I say that with a certain sense of pride since I fall very clearly into this category having made this transition long before this was even a career path or specialization). It is bridging this divide with clear understanding of the issue and challenges faced in practicing day to day clinical medicine that will facilitate acceptance and success.

Third - Information sharing, which is a core fundamental but remains a significant challenge by virtue of the proprietary and protectionist nature to the health care vendors to date. This challenge has thawed and there are many initiatives that will move the industry towards real sharing of data. I certainly want to take my complete "Healthstory" with me wherever I go having just completed the valueless paper based forms for the umpteenth time in my daughters physicians office. There are others but Healthstory represents the complete picture with flexibility to allow participation at a wide range of levels and different detail that makes the adoption more likely. Not forcing or mandating specific data or fields may seem like we loose the data but pragmatic approaches that drive adoption quickly will succeed where highly regimented and overly demanding standards tend to fail in complex environments. So here's my pitch to the incoming Obama administration - mandate the Healthstory standard for capture, exchange and sharing of clinical data. The resistance will be minimal and the standard will allow all stake holders to participate quickly and effectively. Granularity of information will increase over time as the value of this increasingly detailed data is demonstrated with real world use cases - market forces at work.

Fourth - freeing up the clinicians to use the technology and to get paid for digital consultation remotely and facilitating telemedicine. While you are at it I suggest resolving the challenges faced over the practice of medicine in different states as detailed here in the sad case of a Colorado Doctor being prosecuted by California.

Health care reform will has to happen and there is an explosion of suggestions and ideas, but the above four make a great start and I concur with David Brailer on their importance and value in making these reforms a resounding success but lets make sure that the interoperability is a fundamental part of the equation.

No comments: