Are we using IT well?

Apparently, Intel Chairman Craig Barrett thinks the healthcare industry hasn't implemented information technology effectively.  Despite the fact that verticals like banking have conquered similar data privacy, security and connectivity problems, health industry leaders can't seem to get their act together and make necessary changes, he notes.

Let's say he's right--healthcare industry managers aren't leveraging technology as well as they could. Over the short run, where should they sink their IT dollars? My thoughts:

*  E-prescribing technology: Even if we never managed to get an industry-wide EMR in place, this just makes sense. Why continue to risk errors from hard-to-read scripts, or miss the opportunity to track and aggregate prescribing data?

*  Remote monitoring of chronic disease patients:  Evidence is piling up that remotely monitoring diabetes and cardiac patients, in particular, can save a lot of money and dramatically improve incomes.

* Patient tracking software:  Hospitals would do well to track patients comprehensively. I'm talking about monitoring patient flow from the overcrowded ER, where patients are being boarded far too often, all the way through discharge.

*  Consumer/physician portals:  Starting perhaps with simpler functions such as scheduling, portals such as the one Duke University has implemented just make sense. Creating a central hub for patient-doctor communications lays the groundwork for larger shared PHR/EMR efforts, pluses strengthens relationships with patients.|

OK, now the ball's in your court. How do you think our industry should answer Craig Barrett's challenge? What applications are the absolutely critical next step for healthcare providers over the next year or two? I'd love to know what you think. - Anne

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