Technology’s transformation of health care is moving too slowly, despite all the attention being paid to encouraging the adoption of electronic health records, according to former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Known as much for his work with health care information technology as for his previous years in Congress, Gingrich tried to fire up the audience during the 6th Annual World Health Innovation and Technology Congress (WHIT) in Washington, D.C. A lot of heads were nodding as the founder of the Center for Health Transformation discussed some bureaucratic obstacles to implementing technology.
The multiyear, gradual approach with myriad regulations and requirements only delays the time that doctors have to spend learning IT systems, Gingrich said. They will spend the same amount of hours, regardless of whether they do it in one year or three, so “Why not get it over with?” he asked.
The rules themselves are complex and interfere with the industry’s ability to be competent and logical, Gingrich added. “We are so totally wrapped up in bureaucracy … that we cannot get back to 2+2=4.”
Aligning the payment system with EHR adoption will help providers to be paid for better outcomes instead of for following processes, Gingrich said. In addition, he suggested, as avenues to improved systems, creating a handful of simple rules, providing subsidies for purchasing technology and establishing realistic expectations for the use of health IT. Having flexibility will lead to innovation, he said.
Still, getting to that level of adoption does take time, providers say.
Both the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act in the 2009 stimulus legislation and the health reform law known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act play roles in the adoption of health IT. The HITECH Act shapes the meaningful use program, while health reform addresses the use of some technology in creating health insurance exchanges.
Because of the meaningful use requirements spelled out in the HITECH Act, providers are focused on “coding like crazy,” said Dr. Todd Rothenhaus, CIO of Caritas Christi Health Care System in Boston.
The Caritas Christi system is two years into its health IT projects and is still developing its virtual environment, Rothenhaus said during a panel discussion at the conference. The incentives in the stimulus law are really more focused on those who are already invested in health IT. Providers just getting started are going to struggle more, he said.
Beyond the financial benefits are the wealth of data and quality improvements that health IT makes possible, and those messages aren’t as clear to some providers, said Dr. Craig Samitt, CEO of Dean Health Systems Inc. in Madison, Wisc. The meaningful use requirements establish a floor for quality, but “we need to get to the ceiling,” he said during the panel discussion.