Former U.S. senators find common ground on health IT
Two former U.S. senators, one a Republican, the other a Democrat, do not have to cross the aisle to work together. Tom Daschle, the Democrat who represented South Dakota from 1987 to 2005, and Bob Bennett, the Republican who represented Utah from 1993 to 2011, pretty much see eye to eye these days – at least on the subject of health information technology.
Healthcare information technology is a topic that is front and center at the Bipartisan Policy Center, which was founded by Daschle along with other former senators – George Mitchell, Bob Dole and Howard Baker. Bennett joined the center as a senior fellow this past February.
[See also: Daschle withdraws from nomination for HHS Secretary.]
On April 26, Daschle and Bennett joined the nation’s new healthcare IT chief Farzad Mostashari, MD, on a panel that explored the challenges of converting the nation’s healthcare system from one that is mired in paper to one that is digital and interoperable.
Daschle described the U.S. healthcare system today as one that is not a system at all. “We have a marketplace and a collage of systems,” he said. “What we have is a 21st century operating room and a 19th century administrative room,” he told an audience gathered at the nation’s capital to hear the three men speak.
Daschle said there are too many “stovepipes” in healthcare. It’s hard to find the right data at the right time, he said, and healthcare is the least transparent of all the sectors of the economy. “If you can’t see it, you can’t fix it,’ he said.
On the fix-it end of it, Daschle sounded hopeful.
“We are at the most transformational time in our nation’s history as it comes to health,” he said.
Bennett (pictured at right), who billed himself as “a Republican who believes that not all spending is inherently evil,” said “everybody is in favor of health IT. In the information age, it’s crazy not to be.”
He warned, however, of major challenges ahead, especially on the privacy and confidentiality front.
He also zeroed in on the difference data can make in improving patient care, using one example from Intermountain Healthcare in his home state.
There was a time when getting infections resulting from surgery down to 2 percent was considered the best any healthcare system could do.