How much will it cost to implement health information exchange processes? According to one federal council, not that much, really.
Compared with the billions the government is already allocating on health information technology, and the money providers are spending to implement electronic health records, it’s only a “modest addition,” said Christine Cassel, president and CEO of the American Board of Internal Medicine. Cassel sits on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), which is charged with, among other initiatives, analyzing the role of IT in health care.
The working group, which Cassel co-chairs, of PCAST’s health and life sciences subcommittee is preparing to release its final report on that role in the coming weeks.
The report builds off efforts by other federal agencies, including the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and regulations spelled out by the HITECH Act, according to Cassel. In addition to suggesting more defined privacy and security for EHRs, the workgroup in its report will make more technical recommendations for the exchange of health information. It sees such techniques as an underpinning of health care delivery. It’s the “key to make this whole process more efficient,” Cassel told the council.
Think of information exchange processes like iPhone apps — they can be added to existing computers, Cassel said.
The ONC and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have indeed been focused on health information exchange, with the new meaningful use requirements and their accompanying standards spelling out several measures of exchange and how to test those measures. Stakeholders have estimated that it costs a physician about $40,000 a year to implement an EHR.
Because of that work, the PCAST workgroup suggests ONC continue to develop information exchange and privacy standards, Cassel said. “We would like to see the role of ONC strengthened.”