Blues plan to help overhaul U.S. healthcare with healthcare IT

By Diana Manos
12:00 AM

With the new Obama administration on its way in, Blue Cross Blue Shield of America, one of the largest healthcare payers in the nation, is planning to help make a mark on reform.

At the e-Health Initiative's Fifth Annual Conference, Scott Serota, president and CEO of BCBSA said, "Now is the time to forge a better healthcare system for the future. The problem with U.S. reform so far has been lack of vision."

Serota, a member of the initial American Health Information Community Consumer Empowerment Workgroup, and a strong advocate for change, yesterday unveiled BCBSA's five-point plan for reform that will require healthcare IT as a foundation.

"Healthcare IT will be the super highway and the cornerstone for change," Serota said.

BCBS contends that President-elect Obama's plan to build reform on an employer-based system is a good one. The company proposes five initiatives for reform, including:

  • Encouraging research on the procedures, drugs and devices that work best
  • Paying for performance
  • Empowering consumers and providers
  • Promoting health awareness
  • Fostering public-private coverage solutions.

According to Serota, the Blues are comprised of 39 independent health plans serving some 102 million members nationwide. Ninety percent of all U.S. hospitals and 80 percent of all U.S. physicians participate in Blue Cross Blue Shield. By sheer volume, the Blues' reform plans will have an impact.

The BCBSA reform plan requires that all Americans have coverage, though Serota said he was not prescribing how this would be done.

BCBSA is planning to help all of its members have a personal health record by the end of 2009. Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, in 14 states, has already begun to convert claims data into personal health records for its members, who may then opt to share the information with their doctor. "It's a very interactive consumer-focused tool," Serota said.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts has been subsidizing doctors who use electronic prescribing, with 81 percent of the participating doctors recommending it. "Since when do 81 percent of doctors recommend anything?" Serota said. "Nothing breeds adoption like your peers recommending it."

The Blues also plan to help lower healthcare costs by using healthcare IT to focus immediately on chronic care disease prevention, beginning with diabetes, Serota said.