Forum: Health reform, technology must align to improve quality of care

By Kyle Hardy
10:55 AM

Reductions in cost and improvements in care are achievable if national efforts to boost health information technology adoption are coordinated with national health reform plans, said a trio of non-profit organizations.

By targeting specific goals, like preventing 1 million heart attacks and strokes or cutting medication errors by half, and adopting health IT to achieve these, the quality of health in America will be impacted for generations, according to the Markle Foundation, the Center for American Progress and the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at Brookings.

"Health reform and health IT investments will protect all Americans only if we set concrete health improvement targets and identify the specific costs to be controlled," said Markle President Zoe Baird. "We know how to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes and how to slash the time physicians spend on administrative tasks. Let's set these goals and others like them. This is the only way we can expand coverage, improve outcomes and control costs."

At a hosted forum of industry and policy leaders in Washiongton D.C., the three organizations emphasized the need for health IT under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

"We must take concrete steps now toward a healthcare system that pays for better quality and lower costs, rather than the unsustainable status quo of paying primarily for volume of medical services," said Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform and Leonard D. Schaeffer Chair in Health Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution. "By tying support for health IT directly to achieving these quality and cost improvements, the new health IT payments can be a critical step toward achieving this vision."

The organizations stressed the need for public and private-sector industry leaders to adopt and move toward achieving improvement goals presented by the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the National Coordinator advisory committee. The goals include preventing 1 million heart attacks and strokes, reducing the percentage of medical errors, preventable hospitalizations and racial/ethnic disparities in diabetes by half, and providing patients with easy access to their health information.

The groups proposed adding two 2015 goals to diagnosing growing health costs. By identifying duplicative healthcare services and reducing them by half, reducing the amount of time physicians spend doing administrative tasks, the groups look to address growth in healthcare costs.

"These goals are ambitious but achievable if we implement health IT and health reform effectively," said Todd Park, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. "Top public- and private-sector leadership should firmly embrace these goals and facilitate their realization through communications to their own organizations and the American public. We should commit to the achievement of these goals as we dive into the details of policy formulation and execution."

The groups are urging HHS to model ARRA criteria on achieving the 2015 goals.

"Success will be measured in the number of lives saved, the quality of health improved and unnecessary costs controlled," said Carol Diamond, MD, managing director at the Markle Foundation. "The health IT investments and privacy protections in the Recovery Act are critical. Broader healthcare reform must build on these efforts by placing value on better outcomes, slowing growth of healthcare costs and protecting privacy."