Healthcare IT

peter orszag healthcare itEight years ago, comprehensive information technology systems were in place in only a tenth of hospitals around the country.  Digital records are very important in measuring progress of patients and keep doctors abreast of best practices.  Not having access to the wealth of information that can be provided with access to sophisticated technology is one of the factors of the wildly varying levels in quality of care from hospital to hospital.

But that was all to begin to change because of a minor component of the 2009 economic stimulus bill.  Health IT is expanding substantially, all due to legislation passed well before the healthcare reform act.  As a result, the value of health care is rising rapidly.

One early adopter of healthcare information technology is Partners HealthCare System Inc in Boston.  Only two out of three of its physicians used digital health records in 2006.  Three years later, they all did.  Their system includes decision support for clinical situations, giving help in assessing what test or treatment a patient needs.  This tool has a huge benefit, as keeping up with increasingly complex advances in medicine is incredibly difficult.

The system also makes it easy to compare the practices of doctors.  Now they can see if they’re using imaging tests more or less often than their colleagues.  Once electronic systems were in place, imaging use dropped off dramatically, including for doctors who used imaging the most.

Health IT has become a necessary step in achieving better healthcare across the board.  That said, it is not the only factor.  The Congressional Budget Office, for which Peter Orszag was the director in 2008, stated that it “has the potential to significantly increase the efficiency of the health sector by helping providers manage information.”  What they also found was that a supportive healthcare delivery system that truly integrates it is also necessary.  Comparing practices of doctors, encouraging adherence to evidence-based medicine, and examining techniques that work best and reduce errors – these are big ways it can help.

Computer tech has continued to advance since then, including health IT.  Systems are becoming less intrusive to the administration of medical practices.  The rise of the tablet computer is a great example of this.  There are also incentive payments for doctors to adopt electronic health records.  Some incentives can be as much as forty thousand dollars.  Hospitals can qualify for over two million dollars.  Because of all of this, the healthcare industry is moving into the digital space faster than ever before.

Read more about it on Bloomberg View

from Peter Orszag Healthcare


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