Sebelius encouraged by direction of health IT

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is pleased with the efforts to increase implementation of integrated technology in healthcare. She points to the meaningful use press conference held earlier this month at Brandeis University as a turning point for health IT in a commentary posted today by Kaiser Health News.

Specifically, she refers to the decision "to support [the newly announced] regulations" by everyone from health insurers to hospitals and physicians to patients as a "cleared...major hurdle." 

"Previously, some provider groups had expressed skepticism about these standards, worrying that they were too burdensome," Sebelius writes. "But this month's press conference underscored an emerging consensus that the benefits of electronic health records far outweigh the costs--and that the time for action is now." 

Benefits, she writes, are less paperwork and lower overall costs. Sebelius expresses dismay that currently "only two in 10 doctors and one in 10 hospitals" use any sort of electronic record system at all. 

"[I]n almost every other sector besides health, electronic information is the way we do business," she continues. "A cashier scans a bar code to add up our grocery bill. We check our bank balance and take out cash with a debit card that works in any ATM machine." 

Still, she remains encouraged by certain takeaways from the meeting. For example, she says, Aetna, United and WellPoint all announced loan and training programs for electronic health records at the conference. Also, both Delaware-based Christiana Care Health System and Massachusetts giant Partners HealthCare announced their intent to not only support providers who adopt EHRs, but to avoid providers who choose to lag behind in technology. 

"[T]he entire healthcare industry is starting to see how much it has to gain from health IT," she writes. "Over the last 30 years, we've watched information technology revolutionize industry after industry....Now...we are finally poised to make the same transformation in healthcare and leave the days of illegible notes, misplaced folders and musty file cabinets behind for good." 

For more:
- read Sebelius's full commentary, courtesy of Kaiser Health News