Technology CEOs: Networked healthcare system a national imperative
High-level executives from a number of powerful high-tech companies yesterday jointly declared that building a networked healthcare system is an absolute necessity for the United States. Such a system is essential not only to the well being of our healthcare system, but it's also a key to our future global business competitiveness, the Technology CEO Council said yesterday.

Specifically, the Technology CEO Council reached out to policymakers, U.S. businesses and healthcare providers to make the network a reality. The group noted that it will take a multi-prong strategy of policy, standards, and technologies to bring it about.

The Council has released its A Healthy System Report and e-Health Readiness Guide as a road map and policy recommendations for implementing information management into the healthcare system and milestones to measure progress.

Linda Rebrovick, VP of Dell Healthcare, a company that has been member of the TCC since its inception, said the initiative is driven towards transforming the entire healthcare system, integrating the government, business leaders, and each sub-segment of the healthcare system, including patients.

The TCC has sought to take ownership of the process of moving the U.S. healthcare system into the 21st century, Rebrovick said, adding that to prepare its recommendations, the council did surveys and also worked with focus groups to get a feel for what direction should be taken, and why.

For example, the group of high-tech leaders revealed that, according it its own research, 86 percent of U.S. physicians believe the adoption of IT systems such as electronic health records would improve quality of care. Seventy-nine percent of patients also believe similarly, the council said.

The Healthy System report offers stages of eHealth development within organizations, beginning with the current state, the transition stage, and ending at what Rebrovick referred to as "21st Century eHealth."

The report also offers an assessment plan to help organizations get a grasp on an important question of where they are. Dell Healthcare, for example, has developed a type of eHealth Architecture which is broken down into sections, by process, and provides means for lowering costs, Rebrovick said.

There have been many bills proposed by countless politicians, a great many initiatives launched jointly by the private and public sector, all of which linger as disjointed attempts to get health IT rolling on a regional and then national level. TCC is aware of the myriad projects and plans to continue working with these ongoing and developing eHealth initiatives to help them develop.

"It's critical we see [the initiative] to fruition," Rebrovick told Health Imaging News, adding that she is optimistic that now is the time to move on eHealth, sighting the recent and tragic events surrounded the Katrina aftermath as examples of how a lack of electronic health records and healthcare networks proved disastrous for many people displaced in the Gulf coast. Scores of people lost their health records, and physicians often had no way of knowing what prescription drugs people were taking. Hopefully the response will be a "call to action" to get moving on these initiatives on a national level, she said.

One other way to push forward adoption is the use of open standards within the industry regarding IT systems, as well as to use best practices from other industries and applying them to healthcare, something that Dell Healthcare has worked towards, said Rebrovick.
Here is a glimpse of the specific recommendations contained within the A Healthy System Report:
  • Get providers, payers and regulators to adopt interoperable technology and common data standards;

  • The federal government should drive market-based open standards and best practices in its own programs; and, by 2007 the feds should require agencies to receive and transmit health information electronically;

  • Companies should make healthcare purchasing decisions based on quality, but also support providers and networks investing in measurement, accountability and interoperability;

  • States should base Medicaid reimbursements on value, with additional incentives for health IT adoption; states also should promote the creation of regional health initiatives via various financial assistance models;

  • Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement programs should provide incentives to foster higher quality, greater efficiency and best practices; and

  • A review of existing federal, state and health network systems and practices to ensure that they both promote data sharing and protection of patient privacy.