Use of technology in healthcare no silver bullet for economic growth

The healthcare industry is representative of the trend that, despite improvements in technology, economic growth is not a guarantee, according to a recent New York Times article.

While technology spending over the last 10 years has increased 54 percent, the article notes, citing a recent report from IDC, a second analysis from McKinsey Global Institute determined that 18 percent of the U.S. economy is meeting its "digital potential." One of the industries flagged for lagging behind in terms of its investment and use of technology in the latter report was healthcare.

Despite the increase in use of electronic health record systems thanks to incentive payments made to providers adopting the technology via the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, "little evidence" to date exists of positive impacts on quality and costs, Ashish Jha, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, tells the Times.

One reason for that could be a continued inability to share data. Speaking last week at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's annual meeting, American Hospital Association Vice President of Health Information and Policy Operations Chantal Worzala said the AHA has heard "loud and clear" from its members that the systems they implement don't always share data.

"We still don't have the infrastructure we need to support this change," Worzala said. "It's just not a place where you can use one mechanism to meet all of your data sharing needs in an efficient and effective way."

Meanwhile, physician practices and independent doctors also are struggling to see improved metrics from the use of EHRs. For example, the Times notes that for Morristown, Tennessee-based 50-doctor group Healthstar Physicians, revenue is roughly 8 percent lower than where it was in 2012, the year it implemented its EHR. Still, in 2015 earnings for the group were up about 3 percent from 2014, according to the article.

The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, passed into law in April 2015, attempts to shift the dynamic of EHR adoption for Medicare doctors by rewarding physicians for results attained for using federally certified systems via both the Merit Based Incentive Program and participation in advanced alternative payment models.

To learn more:
- read the Times article