The federal government should use incentives—not unfunded mandates—to accelerate the adoption of health information technology, according to a panel of corporate executives.
And the government should coordinate the use of interoperable health information technology (IT) systems among its own agencies, the panel said.
The Health Information Technology Leadership Panel is made up of executives from companies that purchase a substantial amount of health care for their employees but have little direct involvement in the health care or IT sectors.
The corporate panel was convened by the Department of Health and Human Services late last year to gather ideas about how IT has been successfully adopted in other sectors and how that could be applied to the health care arena.
“The leadership panel asked the federal government to approach health care in a new way—as a catalyst for change and as a collaborator,” David J. Brailer, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology said in a statement.
The government should be looking for ways to help finance physician adoption of health IT and to allow providers to reap the benefits of the systems, the panel said.
The panel also recommended that the government be involved in promoting the development and adoption of health IT standards, as well as funding demonstrations and evaluations to learn implementation lessons and to disseminate best practices.
Private sector involvement should include the support of leading business organizations such as the National Business Group on Health and the Business Roundtable. This type of private sector involvement would result in wide public and political support for the adoption of health IT, the panel said.
Overall, the panel concluded the system-wide savings from implementing health IT exceed the costs. However, the report also notes that one of the challenges to adoption is that, currently, individual physicians assume the cost of IT without reaping the full savings.
“There are no surprises in the report,” said Mark Leavitt, M.D., medical director for the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.
However, the panel's findings help to reinforce that incentives are a big part of the effort to spur health IT adoption. And the report also points out that the health care industry is lagging behind other sectors in its adoption of IT, he said.
The report outlines an appropriate, but limited, role for the federal government, said Dr. Leavitt, who is also the chair of the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information—a voluntary, private-sector initiative to certify health IT products.
The federal government has a role in articulating a vision for the adoption of health IT systems and using its purchasing power to accelerate that adoption, he said. But federal officials should not overregulate the area or try to dictate the specific elements of IT systems.
The Health Information Technology Leadership Panel report is available online at www.hhs.gov/healthit/HITFinalReport.pdf