America - States moving forward on e-health care

Leadership in Health Services

ISSN: 1751-1879

Article publication date: 13 February 2007




(2007), "America - States moving forward on e-health care", Leadership in Health Services, Vol. 20 No. 1.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

America - States moving forward on e-health care

President Bush has called for e-health care by 2014. State governments and localities, as well as private sector health care, are picking up the gauntlet.

A recent New York Times article reported that state and local government has first focused on encouraging electronic health records and other health IT adoption.

Health care leaders believe HIT holds much promise. It can help reduce costs, improve quality and promote patient safety.

Nobody expects the federal government to take the full responsibility of designing and implementing a health IT regime – and few really want that. But government has an appropriate role, and the states seem to be taking the right approach.

The Times said:

State officials have begun convening task forces of hospitals, doctors, insurers and other groups to develop plans for such regional [electronic health records] systems.

A total of 38 states have launched such discussions, and 21 states are coordinating development efforts.

Having private sector providers at the table marks the best way to proceed. After all, you want the input of health care sectors – the people who will use any e-health system – to make sure things will actually work as envisioned.

The states are called the “laboratories of democracy” because they can try out different solutions to a problem. With health IT, it is advisable for a lot of approaches to get tested, kept and improved, or dumped. Then there is no one-size-fits-all, big-government-knows-best “solution.”

State officials say that:

What has emerged in many of these discussions is a strong desire by hospitals, doctors and others involved that the state not dictate which technology to use.

A Michigan official told The Times:

What they did not want is the state to run anything and sell it back to them.

The way the states have approached this important challenge of an interoperable system by 2014 attests to the wisdom of this direction.

Arizona “created a steering committee whose goal was to write a ‘road map’ to achieve statewide adoption” of electronic health records. A state-sponsored summit late last year attracted 300 attendees. In April, a steering committee proposed a state portal giving health care providers access to information like lab tests and prescriptions.

West Virginia is establishing an open-source e-health records system in seven public facilities, including nursing homes and hospitals.

Some states are considering how to foster a system that helps doctors treat Medicaid patients regardless of where they show up seeking care.

High technology does not come cheap.

Some states and the federal government have put forward grant funding to foster HIT.

Many private health care players, too, have invested their dollars.

Health care leaders have urged the federal government to think outside the box to find ways to step up financing for HIT.

Health IT is getting a boost nationwide. The efforts of federal, state, local and private sector players – and the notable, refreshing absence of a top-down, dictated design – should encourage creativity and bold solutions. Health care leaders commend the initiatives being taken and look forward to working closely with visionaries in every state and at every level of government.

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