Jackson Hole Group Proposes New IT To Improve Health Care Delivery, Quality
The Jackson Hole Group, a group of health care reformers that "spearheaded the concept of HMOs" in 1970 and "stimulated debate" over the national health care plan sponsored by former President Clinton in the 1990s, has proposed "new information technologies to help deliver care and assure quality," the Wall Street Journal reports (Landro, Wall Street Journal, 10/2). The group, an informal gathering of health policy experts, corporate executives, physicians and hospital officials, met in the early 1990s to discuss health care reform. After Congress defeated the Clinton health care plan, interest in Jackson Hole decreased, and the group ended their meetings (American Health Line, 12/17/01). However, Jackson Hole founder Paul Ellwood last month convened the first meeting of the group in six years to discuss the role of new information technology in health care. The group will continue to lobby for "some form" of universal health care coverage -- "one of the group's original animating principles" -- but plans to shift the focus from "big time health policy aimed at politicians, insurers, payers and providers" to support for "immediate steps to give patients more power in the health system," Ellwood said. According to the group, new information technology could allow patients to have access to information about treatments based on medical research and "tools to help them judge the performance" of doctors and hospitals.
At the center of the Jackson Hole proposal, the group has recommended a voluntary system of electronic medical records -- a "personal health journal" -- that patients could store on the Internet and make available to providers. However, the proposal faces "formidable" problems, the Journal reports. Electronic medical records "exist but are still available only to a fraction of the U.S. population," and many hospitals and other providers do not have the funds to add electronic medical records, in part as a result of Medicare reimbursement reductions. Ellwood said, "Our Jackson Hole Group has challenged the American health system before, usually by attempting to motivate the big players. But now we are going to take direct action on behalf of patients" (Wall Street Journal, 10/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.