Bipartisan center calls for increased HIE efforts, alignment of healthcare incentives

Aligning financial incentives with high-quality care and accelerating health information exchange efforts (HIE) were among several key recommendations made in a new report released this morning by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) that focuses on health IT's role in transforming healthcare. According to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who co-chaired a BPC task force on delivery system reform and health IT, health innovation service delivery is severely lacking today despite significant advances in healthcare technology.

"Today's challenges aren't that much different than they were 25 years ago," Frist said at a BPC event unveiling the report's findings in Washington, D.C., this morning. "They're just much worse now."

Overall, six barriers to implementing health IT to support high performance--and subsequent recommendations for getting past those barriers--were identified in the report. In addition to the alignment of financial incentives and the acceleration of data exchange efforts, other notable barriers include:

  • a limited level of consumer engagement regarding use of electronic tools
  • a lack of electronic health record adoption
  • privacy and security inefficiencies
  • an overabundance of priorities

To increase consumer engagement, the report called for the private and public sectors to collaborate on the creation of training and educational programs that will help providers offer greater health information access to their patients. Meanwhile, to increase EHR adoption, the report recommended the dissemination of "common sense" security practices by the government, along with the expansion of support for using such tools, akin to the Regional Extension Centers.

The report also recommended a better alignment of federal healthcare and health IT programs, along with better coordination with the private sector on such matters.

"Public and private sector leaders should collaborate on the development of a common set of principles, policies and standards related to the use of electronic data for population health purposes," the report's authors wrote.

Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans and a member of the BPC task force, called the report significant because of its holistic approach. "We've seen many reports [geared specifically toward IT]," Ignani said this morning. In contrast, she said, this report focuses on what needs to be done for IT in the context of how it relates to healthcare, overall. "It's a very clear roadmap," she said.

Peter Basch, medical director for ambulatory EHR and health IT policy at Washington, D.C.-based MedStar Health, said the report's focus on aligning incentive policies was key.

"It's not just 'how quickly can you see a patient and rapidly document?'" Basch said this morning. "We're talking about providing care differently. Payment policy is key. If we design the right system--come up with the right payment policy--the rest will fall into place."

The report is a follow up to a BPC report released last June. Many of the same themes, including more alignment by the public and private sectors, overlap in the reports.

To learn more:
- read the full report (.pdf)