Key Health Care IT Trends
The good news is that primary focus now seems to be squarely on improving the overall quality of health care and the reduction of human errors.
When I started writing about electronic medical records a couple of years ago, I had the chance to speak with Dr. John Halamka, who chairs the Health Information Technology Standards Panel. He echoed then what I'd read in several case studies and reports: The idea of an electronic health records system is great, but it really won't achieve what its proponents are working toward unless the different software systems implemented by physicians' offices, hospitals, insurance companies and other stakeholders can "talk to each other."
In other words, integration and interoperability are the keys. Like The New York Times writer Steve Lohr pointed out recently: A basic challenge is for doctors, hospitals, patients and public health authorities to be able to easily and securely share information - things like a person's vital signs, diagnosis, lab tests and drugs prescribed. A fancy electronic patient record, unconnected, is just an expensive way to capture data.
This week, however, the Office of National Health Information Technology revealed the launch of two pilot projects (in Minnesota and Rhode Island) in which government-endorsed technology will be used to transmit health information between institutions. Additional pilot projects are slated for institutions in New York, Connecticut, Tennessee, Oklahoma and California, The New York Times reports.
The most interesting tidbit, though? Instead of assigning one group or one company the task of developing the tools, the ONC took the specifications to a select group of private and public sector volunteers-some of whom compete with each other-and said, "Give us an easy-to-use health information exchange solution." The volunteers took the challenge and ran with it.