HIMSS New England: Physicians must champion health IT

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NORWOOD, Mass.--The “inexorable march” toward the use of technology in healthcare reform shouldn’t be thought of as a linear progression, said Charlie Baker, former president and CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare and current Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate, at the fifth annual HIMSS New England Chapter Public Policy Forum Wednesday.

It's unclear what changes will occur in applications, technology and how physicians, hospitals or the government will enter into healthcare reform, and it will be hard to figure out “who pays,” Baker said.

Anecdotal evidence shows physicians have two minds concerning healthcare reform, Baker said. On one hand, healthcare reform provides tremendous advantages in care delivery. On the other hand, however, physicians are nervous about tort and medical malpractice issues, how much information can be accessed easily and what information physicians will be held accountable for.

Without tort reform in the legislation, "I don’t think that the two minds I constantly heard are going to go away,” said Baker.

To help promote the use of technology in healthcare and engage physicians in its adoption, Baker suggested:

  • Rules and standards and data definitions must be addressed. “If you want interoperability, you've got to have a single set of standards and terms," he said.
  • What physicians are paid and how they perform services should be publicly disclosed. Publicly disclosing this information would motivate caregivers to improve and would be a quick means to leverage health IT across physicians, according to Baker.
  • Pay primary care providers more money. If primary care physicians were paid more to spend more time with complex patients, less would be spent on healthcare overall, he said.

Concluding his opening keynote address, Baker stated that it will be a challenge to get physicians behind health IT adoption.

“To truly be successful, the physician has to be the biggest champion,” said Baker. “No one thinks harder than the physician how to maximize performance and leverage it if they think they can improve care.”