Editor's Corner

Welcome to the first issue of FierceHealthIT, your one-stop source for healthcare IT information and analysis. In just minutes, our newsletter will give the information you need to make critical IT decisions for your healthcare organization, including case studies, research findings, trend analysis, commentary and more.

Today, I'd like to shine a spotlight on the VA's accomplishments in the electronic medical records arena. Advocates of broader healthcare IT usage and a single-payer healthcare system ought to run out quickly and order reprints of a new article in BusinessWeek about the VA's incredible overhaul. From the 1960s to the 1990s the VA healthcare system was the stuff of nightmare movies and soldier memoirs (remember Born on the Fourth of July?). But in recent years the VA--in part thanks to harnessing IT technology like VistA, its much praised electronic medical records system--has become a provider system to be envied and emulated.

Every office visit, prescription, and medical procedure is recorded in VistA's database, allowing doctors and nurses to update themselves on a patient's status with just a few keystrokes. In 1995, patient records at VA hospitals were available at the time of a clinical encounter only 60 percent of the time. Today it is 100 percent. Some 96 percent of all prescriptions and medical orders, such as lab tests, are now entered electronically. The national comparison is more like 8 percent. "One out of five tests in a civilian hospital have to be repeated because the paper results are lost," says VA Secretary R. James Nicholson. "That's not happening in our hospitals." VistA is a big reason why the VA has held its costs per patient steady over the past 10 years, despite double-digit inflation in healthcare prices.

The VA's radical overhaul has caught the attention of healthcare policy wonks, who have in turn sung the system's praises in prestigious medical journals--as well they should. (Learn how the VA may be offering a glimpse of the future of healthcare IT here.)

In the future, look for us to both profile successes like these--and help you avoid pitfalls--as you do the difficult job of managing smart health IT implementations.  If we can do anything further to meet your needs, or you just want to say hello, I'd love to hear from you. Please feel free to drop me a line at [email protected] anytime. I look forward to serving you! - Michael