Robert Wah: Meeting health IT challenges today 'means a better tomorrow'

Daily tasks can cloud visions of the future for healthcare technology, but "meeting the challenges today means a better tomorrow," outgoing American Medical Association President Robert Wah, M.D., said in a speech this weekend at the AMA's annual meeting in Chicago.

Where healthcare is going, it doesn't "need roads," Wah said, borrowing a line by Doc Brown of the "Back to the Future" series. In his speech, Wah examined how far his organization, and healthcare, have come and how far both still must go.

One area that still needs work is the Meaningful Use program, he said. While the AMA has ushered in progress through efforts to cut the reporting period down to 90 days, the program remains "a heavy burden and a prison for innovation," Wah said.

"Harness technology to improve care--don't let it harness us," he said. "The same goes for those who write regulations. Learn from mistakes and act accordingly. If something isn't working--fix it."

Another challenge is the ICD-10 transition. The new code set will disrupt practices already dealing with Meangful Use headaches, Wah said. Safeguards should be put in place if implementation is to go through this October, he added, such as more comprehensive testing, a grace period--already being pushed on Capitol Hill--and advanced payment authority.

However, Wah pointed out many positive steps the industry has taken, including the elimination of the sustainable growth rate, efforts to prevent Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease and a new focus on educating medical professionals for the future.

"We've worked 'for the betterment of public health' in everything from medical ethics, education, vaccinations, treating epidemics and attacking tobacco," he said. "Now, AMA and America's physicians are leading the way toward a new era of better health--and a better healthcare system."

To learn more:
- read Wah's speech