Intermountain, Geisinger share the spotlight in Obama talk

By Bernie Monegain
10:15 AM

President Barack Obama on Thursday turned the spotlight on healthcare IT leaders Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City and Geisinger Health in rural Philadlephia.

"We have to ask why places like the Geisinger Health system in rural Pennsylvania, Intermountain Health in Salt Lake City or communities like Green Bay can offer high-quality care at costs well below average, but other places in America can't," Obama told a packed gymnasium at Green Bay Southwest High School.

"We need to identify the best practices across the country, learn from the success and replicate that success elsewhere," he said. "And we should change the warped incentives that reward doctors and hospitals based on how many tests or procedures they prescribe, even if those tests or procedures aren't necessary or result from medical mistakes. Doctors across this country did not get into the medical profession to be bean counters or paper pushers, to be lawyers or business executives. They became doctors to heal people. And that's what we must free them to do."

Obama has repeatedly held up the use healthcare information technology as a means not only to improve patient care, but also to reduce costs.

Marc Probst, the CIO at Intermoutain Healthcare, said digitization is critical to achieving both quality and efficiency. But he urged a closer look at what Intermountain, Geisinger, the Mayo Clinic and others have done to create systems that could transform healthcare.

"There are proven models that should be examined closely as part of the process associated with HIT incentives," he said in an op ed piece in the June issue of Healthcare IT News.

"What these models share is a priority on standardization," he wrote. "Creating standards that can be implemented for HIT systems across the entire country is not as daunting as it sounds."

Probst is a member of the new federal advisory committee on healthcare information technology.

In Green Bay, Obama called for a government-run public health plan as part of the mix for insuring healthcare for all Americans.

"In all these reforms, our goal is simple: the highest-quality healthcare at the lowest-possible cost," he said.  "We want to fix what's broken and build on what works."