Gingrich makes new call for health IT focus

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Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and founder of the Center for Health Transformation and Janet Dillione, president of the health information technology division of Siemens Medical Solutions, wrote an op-ed appearing in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the need for a bigger focus on health information technology.

The health care industry is a $2-trillion-a-year system, with more than 800,000 doctors and 6,000 hospitals. In an age of instant messaging and ATMs, “technology is second nature. But when Americans step inside the health-care system, we step back to a time of paper-based medical records and color-coded filing systems. That is why getting health information technology into the hands of health-care providers must be one of our nation's top priorities, and we must act now,” they wrote.

Aside from inefficient and costly health care, the lack of HIT in health care is driving up costs and actually causing a higher error rate. The Institute of Medicine issued a startling report last, stating that 1.5 million Americans are injured or killed every year because of medication errors, costing at least $3.5 billion. And, some experts believe that as much as 40 percent of health-care spending — $800 billion a year — is waste.

“Health information technology, from electronic prescribing to electronic health records to clinical decision support, is a critical part of the solution,” according to the piece. However, “only a quarter of all hospitals and less than 15 percent of all physicians use information technology in the delivery of care.” Incentives for physicians who adopt IT is one solutions as is breaking down legal barriers to adopting technology. “From Medicaid regulations to antiquated statutes from decades ago, all of them should be broken down to expedite the adoption of IT.”