Health Care IT
I’VE HEARD SO MANY PEOPLE SAY THAT THE HEALTH CARE INDUSTRY IS “BROKEN”
that I’m beginning to believe it myself.
When President Obama included $19 billion in computerized medical record funding in the
$787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he did so with the intention of helping providers reduce costs and improve quality of care. We know what improving the quality of care
does for health insurers, who also have a vested interest in having their providers embrace the technologies that will enable them to improve communications and business transactions with all stakeholders.
Yet the reality, according to experts at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, is
that technology could increase health care costs without markedly improving quality. In fact, says
Wharton, the focus tends to be on technology because the “real” problems are so hard to solve, no
one wants to touch them politically.
Among the “real” problems, notes Wharton, are what it calls a “primitive” infrastructure for
delivering health care in this country. “The health care industry is too fragmented with too many
motivations preventing real integration,” says Richard Neill, residency director and vice chair at the
University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. “IT is necessary, but it will not fix what’s in place. Technology can accelerate the bad systems and processes, and
you can make the same mistakes 100 times faster.”
SO WHAT’S THE POINT?
Well, for starters, patient care, and the (big) business around delivering it, can’t function without
technology. The United States spent $2.4 trillion on health care in 2008, reports the World Health
Organization, which predicts those costs will increase at twice the rate of inflation by 2016. The typical American family of four will spend $16,771 on health care this year, up 7.4% from the 2008
figure of $15,609, according to Seattle-based consultancy Milliman.
Not everyone believes that health care technology lacks merit. Kevin Volpp, professor of medicine
and health care management at Wharton, argues that it’s vital for the health care industry to upgrade
IT, pointing to its potential to allow doctors and hospitals to share critical patient records and give
patients the ability to monitor their health and prevent errors.
Whether the “broken” health care system as we know it is affected by a yet-to-be decided set of
health care reforms remains to be seen. But, in looking at the layers of complexity surrounding the
deeply tiered health care industry, one thing appears simple: The patient forking out $16,000 per
year will have the last word on whether health care IT is a panacea for the system’s ills.
4709 Golf Rd., 7th Floor
Skokie, IL 60076
Editor-in-Chief: Patricia Speer 312.983.6100
Senior Managing Editor: Carrie Burns 312.983.6183
Senior Editor: William Kenealy 312.983.6213
Senior Editor: Alex Vorro 312.983.6130
Contributors: Joe McKendrick
Art Director: Mike Vella
Associate Art Director: Javier Samaniego
VP & Group Publisher: Dan Rubinetti 212.803.6062
Associate Publisher: Holli Gronset 312.983.6178
Regional Sales Manager: Barbara Olsen 312.983.6214
VP Business Development: Adam Reinebach 212.803.6555
Sales Coordinator : Michelle Vega 312.983.6206
Classified Sales Manager: Kurt Kriebal 770.935.0359
Customer Service: 800.221.1809
Reprint Services: Joylyn Yaw 212.803.8368
Marketing Manager: Jill England 212.803.8321
Circulation Manager: George Ortiz 212.803.8544
Executive Director of Manufacturing: Stacy Ferrara 212.803.8293
Group Production Director: Elina Shnayder 212.803.8210
Associate Production Manager: Chris Bishop 212.803.8330
Distribution Manager: Mary Mormile 212.803.8830
BOARD OF ADVISERS:
Eric Bulis, SVP and CIO, SBLI USA Mutual Life
Ursuline Foley, SVP and CIO, XLRe at XL Capital
Dick Mucci, Chairman and CEO of International, New York Life
Dennis Mehmen, CIO, VP, Business Information Services,
Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Co.
Mike Murray, VP of Finance, OneBeacon Insurance Co.
Michael Romano, SVP, Risk & Administrative Services, Highmark Inc.
Anthony Sisti, Information Systems Director, Travelers
BUSINESS TECHNOLOGY & SECURITIES DIVISION
EVP & Managing Director: Rob Whitaker
Group Editorial Director: John McCormick
Chairman & CEO: James M. Malkin
CFO: William Johnston
VP, Sales & Customer Service: Steve Andreazza
SVP, Finance & Accounting: Richard Antoneck
SVP, Operations: Celie Baussan
EVP & Chief Content Officer: David Longobardi
EVP, Marketing & Strategic Planning: Anne O’Brien
Senior Director, Human Resources: Ying Wong