The Technology Showcase and briefing held on June 21, 2007 was declared a huge success by attendees and exhibitors. The Capitol Hill Steering Committee on Telehealth and Healthcare Informatics each year devotes a day in June to highlight the progress and steps taken to deliver better and more effective healthcare.
Senators Kent Conrad (D-ND), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), and Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) along with key administration officials including Deborah Taylor Tate, FCC Commissioner, Karen Bell, ONCHIT, Lt. Col Hon Pak, TATRC and President of ATA, and Jon White, AHRQ presented their thoughts on what is needed to improve healthcare in this country.
Senator Kent Conrad one of the Co-Chairs of the Steering Committee emphasized that there could be a 30% saving in current healthcare costs right here and right now but first we need to correct the problems and the spending in our healthcare system. Senator Conrad called for the broadening use of telehealth and for more investing in high-tech health information systems. This could save not only money but thousands of lives.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse pointed out that we need to fix the reimbursement system and build health IT with quality in mind. The Senator recently introduced three bills:
· S 1451would provide grants to local quality reform organizations that are engaged in the real R&D work on improving care and lowering cost in health care
· S 1471 would allow doctors and medical specialty groups to apply to their state departments of health with best practices and be rewarded for compliance with these protocols through increased public insurance payments and speedier private payments
· S 1455 would create a national, private, non-profit corporation to plan, initiate, develop, finance, and manage our nation’s IT infrastructure. The funding mechanism for this bill would allow the corporation to capitalize on the billions of dollars in projected savings for health IT raising revenue through user fees, bonds, and other appropriate tools without increasing the deficit
Senator Chuck Hagel praised the work of the Veterans Administration for developing the technology to improve the health and lives of veterans. As a veteran himself serving in Vietnam, he has a great deal of interest in helping veterans. For example, on June 21st, he introduced legislation to help the Department of Veterans Affairs meet the demands of today’s blind veteran population.
Representative Patrick Kennedy, (D-RI), emphasized that we must work to protect privacy so that the public will know that their medical records are secure. Individuals should decide who sees their own health information and for what purposes. Insurance companies must be stopped from scamming the system and buying information from data companies. If privacy isn’t protected, companies will find ways to get information and stop at nothing.
The good news is that a digital healthcare system would enhance patient privacy while allowing us to dramatically improve healthcare and save billions. According to a RAND study, we could save $340 billion by implementing IT. Think of the additional healthcare we could provide in this country with $340 billion.
The FCC Pilot Program is going to make an important contribution in providing healthcare according to FCC Commissioner Tate. The pilot program will fund up to 85% of the costs incurred in deploying state or regional broadband networks dedicated to healthcare, and fund up to 85% of the costs for connecting the regional and or statewide to the internet2 or to NLR. According to the Commissioner, the FCC is very pleased with the 81 applications that have been received with 42 of those applications coming from states and 2 applications from the territories.
Karen M. Bell, M.D., Director of Health Information Technology Adoption within the Office of the National Coordination for Health IT told the group that the American Health Information Community’s chronic care workgroup is working hard to find the ways to provide remote care to everyone. Dr. Bell said, “to move technology forward, standards have to be developed, a secure and safe system has to be provided, individuals have to be assured that privacy and security are provided, state-based laws have to be put in place, medical liability needs to be examined, and laws that preclude reimbursement from applying to remote settings and the underserved in inner cities needs to be changed.
Lt. Colonel Hon Pak, Director of the Advanced Information Technology Group at TATRC, enforced the idea that people have to lead the way and make technology work in challenging times. TATRC is leading the way by forging a number of partnerships with industry.
Jon White, M.D., described how AHRQ’s Center for Primary Care Prevention and Clinical Partnerships is involved in many health IT projects. He reported that the agency has awarded millions in grants and contracts to improve the quality of clinical projects in various health care settings, but he reinforced the fact that privacy and security is absolutely key for people to feel comfortable in adopting and using health IT.
Sonja Baro with McKesson and Robert Barker with Nextgen Health Information Systems representing the HIMSS Electronic Health Record Vendors Association discussed the Interoperability Roadmap approved by the EHRVA membership. EHRVA was formed in 2004, to enable the Electronic Health Record vendors to join together to help the health IT industry accelerate the rate of the adoption of Electronic Health Records in hospitals and ambulatory care settings.
The association speaks for the EHR vendor community and speaks with a unified voice on standards development, the certification process, interoperability performance and quality measures, and other issues.
The Technology Showcase featured more than 30 Federal agencies, universities, trade associations, leading research organizations, and companies demonstrating their latest advances toward an “e-enabled” healthcare system to support improved quality and deliver more efficient services.
Many of the products and services displayed involved ongoing work in biosurveillance, battlefield medical information systems, robotic systems, chronic care and disease management tools, electronic health records, handheld devices, imaging, patient identification and tracking systems, and rural telemedicine technology.
Some of the other organizations exhibiting included CERMUSA, CSI, Medicity Inc., Vips, an Emdeon Company, ISIS, HIMSS, Department of Veterans Affairs, Electronic Health Record Vendors Association, Nextgen Health Information Systems, INRange Systems, Idaho State University, Inland Northwest Health Services, NLM, Rural Health IT Corporation, SAIC, Siemens Medical, eHealth Initiative, and UPMC.