Thursday, January 14, 2010

2008 to 2010 – are we making significant progress in healthcare IT?

Seeking to demonstrating the value of electronic health record interoperability, McKesson launched its brand of integrated electronic health record (EHR) and practice management solution called Practice Partner®

At conferences for the last year, McKesson created clinical scenarios enabled by the standards-based IHE framework and HITSP federally recognized Interoperability Specifications. It shows an example of an environment where patient health information is exchanged electronically across different healthcare settings.

McKesson says physician practices of all sizes and specialties use Practice Partner software nationwide to improve productivity and enhance quality of care in physician practices. In addition, Practice Partner Patient Records is designed to support interoperability standards for improved information exchange to help providers and other healthcare professionals efficiently deliver quality patient care.

Traditionally, the health-care industry has lagged behind other sectors when it comes to adopting technology.  It’s interesting to look back at an interview with Randy Spratt, the executive vice president and chief information officer at McKesson Corp., the largest pharmaceutical distributor in the U.S.

In that June 2008 interview, Spratt said:

“If you look at the health-care industry, today it can't exchange information. Every time you go to the doctor you fill out the same intake form. If you get hit by a truck and go to the emergency room, they have no idea what your medical history is. They can't easily integrate their suppliers and their customers.

There's so much potential, however. If a doctor knows that you've been on a certain medication for a couple of months, they know not to treat you in a particular way that would have an adverse impact. We think that the health-care industry is going to get there. We are on this exciting cusp where we are starting to see change take place. Cost is going to come down as administrative costs get taken out. If you can take it out of banking and you can take it out of travel, you can take it out of health care.

Health care, for a variety of reasons, has been the technology-adoption laggard of the U.S. Part of it is sheer complexity: The business model of health care is 100 times more complicated in terms of its information density and variability than any other business. Part of it is the economic model: Health care operates in very narrow margins, about 1% or 2% in for-profit institutions. So they don't have the resources to spend.

Over the last four or five years we've started to see what I think is an irrefutable return from some health-care technologies, like capturing MRI and other scans digitally. The technology to do it has been around for two decades, but it wasn't until the last few years that the price point and the performance of the technology made it possible for health-care organizations to adopt it.

The technology costs are continuing to drop and the performance is rising. These files are 100 megabytes large. It wasn't too long ago that sending a file like that would swamp your network and the storage to keep that file was unthinkably expensive. That's no longer the case.”

What’s your view – do you think IT-enabled healthcare is making the kind of progress we should expect?

I welcome your comments.

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