A week ago, I watched the Web cast live of the first meeting of the HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt's new committee, the American Health Information Community (AHIC). The initiative follows the President 's executive order from last April. Contracts and RFPs were solicited from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONCHIT):
On April 27, 2004, the President issued an executive order announcing his commitment to the use of health information technology (health IT) in order to reduce medical errors, lower costs and provide better information for consumers and physicians. In particular, the President called for the widespread adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) and for health information to follow patients throughout their care in a seamless and secure manner. Widespread use of EHRs offers a unique means of improving quality and preventing medical errors, which may contribute to the death of between 50,000 and 100,000 Americans per year, and lowering health care costs.
In order to take the next critical step toward realizing the President’s goal of widespread interoperable EHR adoption, the Secretary of HHS has initiated the next phase of the Department’s health IT strategy. This phase will unfold over the next 500 days and includes convening leaders to coordinate public and private health IT efforts, developing strategies, contracting for studies, and funding prototypes and demonstrations to enable health IT.
Some of the salient points of the Web cast made by Secretary Leavitt:
Sec'y Leavitt's cited that AHIC's importance is based upon its
capacity to implement these projects both in the Gov't and the private
sector, and the belief that they are going to act now despite the long
history of talk about creating a pervasive EHR.
Two issues which he describes as crosscurrents--
Adoption gap vs interoperability: What guarantees do Physician groups, especially small ones, have that their investment a particular IT is the right one. However, interoperability cannot be achieved until there is widespread purchase and implementation of these systems.
"Pure vision" vs immediately available progress: The pure vision or ideal system must be considered the long-term goal while short-term advances must be achieved to generate interest. Two short-term projects mentioned would be a database of immunization records and biosurveillance specifically in regard to the possibility of an outbreak of H5N1Avian Flu in the US. These were described as breakthrough projects.
Several committee members emphasized the role of the average health consumer in maintaining their EHR, and that this would require increased health and technological literacy.
E-prescribing is considered an already evolving technology, but it still lacks a good out-patient business model.
Quality monitoring of clinical services could be enacted. Tracking hospital infection rates was given as prime example.
Improving chronic disease management via networks connected to physicians' offices from the patients' home could provide a dramatic increase in the quality of health care.
Working groups were established to define the tasks needed to implement these breakthrough projects or "low-hanging fruit" as someone described them metaphorically.
Finally, Sec'y said that he would be traveling to Asia to collect information about the problems of preparation for and tracking the possible outbreak of H5N1 in the US. He said that typically the reporting of adverse events in the clinical setting may take weeks before a pattern may emerge. It's his goal to be able to put this data together within hours using a computerized system that will be sensitive reporting of this disease.