Sunday, May 08, 2005

Government getting serious on EMR

This press release shows our government is starting to get serious about computerized patient records (I am steering away from the term "electronic medical records." My ham radio transceivers are electronic in nature; medical records don't contain vacuum tubes, transistors, resistors or capacitors as far as I know.)

Let's hope that included in the bipartisan call for addressing "systemic obstacles and misaligned incentives that have hindered health information technology adoption" are the sociotechnical (people and skills) issues that are a direct cause of healthcare IT failure.

My support of this initiative will include pointing out that one poorly-addressed but critically important benefit of widespread computerized patient records will be better real-time societal health surveillance, for example, detecting harmful pharmaceuticals via improved postmarketing surveillance before things get out of hand. Better health surveillance is also more than just a handy capability to have in times of potential bioterrorism or other epidemics.

Your Action Needed to Support Legislation to Bring Health Care
into the Information Age

On Wednesday, May 11, 21st Century Health Care Caucus co-chairmen Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) will introduce legislation to dramatically increase the use of information technology to improve the quality, safety, efficiency, and coordination of health care. They need your help to pass this bill this year.

Health IT offers the promise of better health outcomes for patients, by catching conflicting prescriptions, providing reminders to improve timely prevention and other recommended care, and better public health monitoring. It can streamline doctors' practices by easing compliance with reporting requirements, simplifying billing and eligibility checks, and providing more patient information at the point of care. It can eliminate wasteful duplication of testing and provide new research capabilities. But despite the promise, health care has been slow to move into the information age due to a number of systemic obstacles.

The 21st Century Health Information Act will be the first bipartisan bill to address the systemic obstacles and misaligned incentives that have hindered health information technology adoption. It is of pragmatic scope in these tight budgetary times but maximizes limited federal dollars to bring about real systems change. It appeals across the political spectrum, from Newt Gingrich to Hillary Clinton.

There is enormous interest in health IT in Washington, but until now there has not been anything around which support could coalesce. With the introduction of the 21st Century Health Information Act, meaningful action on health IT is possible this year, but it will take concerted effort.

What You Can Do:
1. Send a Letter of Support. The cosponsors are trying to get as many letters of support from organizations across the health care spectrum, including patients, physicians, hospitals, other providers, health plans, employers, vendors, and others. You can email letters to (Kennedy) and (Murphy).

2. Issue a Press Release. Help get word out about the bill and the importance of health IT by issuing a press release on May 11. By applauding introduction of the bill and explaining how health IT will impact your organization or your organization's role in rolling out health IT, you can amplify the importance of this legislation while potentially working your organization into media coverage of the bill introduction.

3. Call or Email Members of Congress. Immediately after introduction, we will begin seeking cosponsors to demonstrate that this is legislation with broad, bipartisan support. Phone calls and emails to Members of Congress and their health staffers encouraging cosponsorship of the 21st Century Health Information Act are critical. There can never be too many phone calls or emails.

4. Write a Letter to the Editor or an Op-Ed. By following up May 11 with a letter to the editor or op-ed to your local newspaper about the importance of health IT and the 21st Century Health Information Act, you can help create an echo effect that amplifies the message and helps build support.

Thank you for your efforts to make health care ever better, safer, and more efficient. We look forward to passing the 21st Century Health Information Act with your help.

Addendum - I sent this letter to the congressmen:

Dear Congressman Murphy and Congressman Kennedy,

I sincerely applaud The 21st Century Health Information Act that you are co-chairing.

As a Medical Informatics (clinical IT) specialist who has designed and implemented clinical IT in hospitals domestically and in overseas settings, I can assure you this initiative will have a return on investment in future years in greatly improved quality of care, increased efficiency, reduced waste, and reduced costs.

I have promoted this issue since the mid 1990's and have written extensively on systemic obstacles and misaligned incentives that have hindered health information technology adoption ("sociotechnologic issues"), e.g., at my website "Sociotechnologic Issues in Clinical Computing: Common Examples of Healthcare IT Failure" at .

In addition, as Merck's former Director of Scientific Information Resources, I would also like to point out that a national computerized patient records infrastructure will enable large-scale health surveillance. This capability will enable much more rapid post-marketing surveillance of new drugs, helping avoid debacles such as the VIOXX and Phen-fen accidents, as well as earlier detection of natural or man-made (i.e., bioterrorism) epidemics.

If I can assist this initiative in any way, please let me know.

-- SS

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