CCHIT: $20B IT investment would jump-start healthcare

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Mark Leavitt, MD, PhD, chair of CCHIT. Image Source: Minnesota Department of Health

Mark Leavitt, MD, PhD, chair of the Certification Commission for Health IT (CCHIT), said that a $20 billion investment in healthcare IT would be the "best $20 billion you'll ever spend," and offered a few spending suggestions, in an open letter to President Barack Obama and Congress.

“I concur 100 percent with your decision to apply the chest paddles now, charged with $20 billion of investment,” he wrote.

Leavitt said that he and fellow healthcare IT leaders are committed to ensuring that the treatment not only succeeds, but delivers a positive return far exceeding the amount invested, due to an improvement in spending practices and the availability of healthcare IT products.

In the past three years, CCHIT has certified more than 160 EHR products for doctors’ offices, hospitals and emergency departments, checking software capabilities, interoperability and the security of the systems as well, all against established standards.

He suggested that a massive, unqualified handout of dollars to doctors is not the solution, suggesting that while outright grants may be appropriate for providers in rural and underserved areas, and for safety-net clinics, in other environments financial incentives should be structured as a series of incremental rewards for progressive achievements.

“Healthcare payment reform and healthcare IT—twins separated at birth—must grow up and mature together to achieve their full potential,” Leavitt wrote.

He added that some of the stimulus funds should be used to develop a skilled work force. “It may be possible to redeploy IT personnel from other industries to lay broadband infrastructure for healthcare, but we’ll also need to boost health[care] IT training programs,” he said.

He also highlighted how personal health records hold the potential to empower citizens with health knowledge, so as to make better health choices and to become more discriminating healthcare consumers.

With EHRs that easily intercommunicate, “we can reward better teamwork among providers to re-integrate care despite our fragmented healthcare business model. And with empowered healthcare consumers and an online connection that extends beyond the occasional visit to the doctor, we can motivate healthy lifestyles and prevention, eventually reversing the growing burden of chronic diseases,” Leavitt wrote.

“Paddles: charged. Pathway: clear. Just push the button, and a new vital rhythm in healthcare will begin,” he concluded.