Information Technology an Important Part of Health Care Reform, Frist, Clinton Write
A bipartisan consensus has emerged that the U.S. health care system needs "major, transformative change" in which information technology is used to "improve care, lower costs, improve quality and empower consumers," Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) write in a Washington Post opinion piece. The U.S. health system is "often afflicted by systemic error and dramatic inefficiencies," Frist and Clinton say. Care providers are paid to treat patients who are sick or injured, rather than ensure that they remain healthy; patients are not assured high-quality care; the system is not oriented to treat modern, chronic diseases; providers lose time trying to manage "mounds of paperwork" and data; and the latest research "takes years to reach medical practices," according to Frist and Clinton.
However, employing information technology could "put the right information in the hands of doctors and patients at the right time," which would allow them to make better choices, they add. Frist and Clinton say that information technology would allow the health care industry to improve the quality of care, cut costs and boost productivity, as it has in other business sectors. Information technology also could enable patients to "tak[e] charge of their care and becom[e] active participants in it" by giving them access to their health records and to tools that allow them to "manage their care more effectively and to communicate more efficiently with their health care providers," they write. The government must offer "leadership and federal investment in health information technology and quality standards," including "interoperability standards so systems can communicate with each other, privacy protections, targeted investment and payment systems that reward quality care," Frist and Clinton conclude (Frist/Clinton, Washington Post, 8/25).