Report: U.S. could learn health IT lessons from Europe

While the U.S. scrambles to meet the goal of two consecutive administrations delivering a national, interoperable web of electronic health records networks by 2014, other countries have achieved far greater positive results with health IT, a new report says. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a nonpartisan, Washington-based think tank, credits strong national leadership, well-designed incentives and mandates and a robust, shared health IT infrastructure for success elsewhere, particularly in the Scandinavian countries.

"Countries like Denmark, Finland and Sweden demonstrate that widespread use of mature technologies like electronic health records improve the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare," report author Daniel Castro says, according to Government Technology. We question how "mature" EHRs really are here in the United States, save for long-established systems at the Veterans Health Administration and a few academic institutions, but the study does cite some important differences between America and the rest of the developed world.

For one thing, the U.S. has a much larger and more diverse population than other industrialized countries. (Japan, another advanced, heavily populated country, has similar EHR adoption rates to the U.S.) Perverse financial incentives here in the U.S. discourage investment in health IT, and the lack of a unique patient identifier complicates interoperability efforts. The report suggests that health record banks might be a way for the U.S. to circumvent deep political and cultural opposition to the type of centralized data repository that other nations are building.

For more information:
- read this short Government Technology piece
- download the ITIF report (.pdf)