Tuesday, October 20, 2009

HHS to promote low-cost electronic health record software packages including the VA's VistA

If I were a proprietary health IT vendor, the following bolded passage in the new Healthcare Bill (PDF here) would make me a bit nervous:


(a) STUDY.—The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall conduct a study of methods that can be employed by qualified health benefits plans offered through an exchange to encourage increased meaningful use of electronic health records by health care providers, including—

(1) payment systems established by qualified health benefit plans that provide higher rates of reimbursement for health care providers that engage in meaningful use of electronic health records; and
(2) promotion of low-cost electronic health record software packages that are available for use by health care providers, including software packages that are available to health care providers through the Veterans Administration.

The VA system, VistA/CPRS ("computerized patient record system"), was developed with taxpayer money and is freely available. A free working demo is downloadable here (Windows only).

This represents a needed "public option" for healthcare IT, the estimates of cost of adoption of proprietary systems now at somewhere between $20 and $50 billion dollars, give or take. (I believe the actual figure to be far higher due to IT sector dyscompetence in HIT as I wrote at my post "Fuzzy Math Indeed.") To put that figure in context, $50 billion is enough to build approximately five hundred shiny new 100-bed hospitals, or one hundred 500-bed hospitals, at ~$1 million per bed.

Entrepreneurial companies have sprung up to adopt it for the private healthcare sector such as WorldVista. They probably won't be charging the multimillion dollar rates that the private HIT sector does, and the quality will likely be higher.

-- SS

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