Outrage equals change

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What has a 45 percent defective rate? Costs twice as much in the U.S. as the next industrialized nation? And causes an estimated 98,000 deaths per year (that's more than motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer and AIDS combined)?

This is the startling report card on the U.S. healthcare system. A system of great people, great innovation and great technology, but a system broken and need of emergent care.

Last month, Congressman Patrick Kennedy (RI) and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich convened the annual Frontiers of Health Care Conference titled "Transforming Health Care Delivery for the 21st Century" at Brown University. Bringing together physicians, insurance companies, legislators and healthcare executives, the conference shed light on the status of the U.S. healthcare systems and offered possible solutions to our complex problems.

Speaker Gingrich and Congressman Kennedy - as politically diverse as two now-proponents as you can find - have found common ground for fixing healthcare. Proposed solutions include: focusing the system on financially rewarding caregivers based on health, not on treatment episodes; empowering each of us with a web-based personal health record that we share with our caregivers; and building a web-based market for pharmaceuticals that introduces competition and lowers cost.

IT is the common ground to fix the system. Information systems must track care from the doctor's office visit or hospital admission clinically and administratively via data standards through the end of the care episode - and allow secure access to that episode for future, better-informed, patient-focused, timely care. But this means change on the national level, change in the care itself and change in the environment, organization and professional behavior of healthcare organizations. One large challenge.

The intent of the conference was to build enough outrage at our broken system among healthcare leaders to force change from our legislative bodies to further adapt information-based solutions. It gets my vote.