Kathleen Sebelius: U.S. is in 21st century with a 20th century healthcare system

The U.S. is living in a 21st century world with a 20th century delivery system, Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a speech delivered last week at Care Innovation Summit 2014 hosted by The Aspen Institute and The Advisory Board Company in Washington, D.C.

The key to change this is to harness the power of innovation to transform the healthcare system, she said.

"First, we need to unlock and liberate the information that drives innovation," Sebelius (pictured) said. "Second, we need to align the way we pay for care, with the results we want for our families and for our nation's finances. We all know the expression 'you get what you pay for.' We want to pay for better outcomes rather than more operations. Innovations rather than readmissions."

Sebelius spoke on progress made with electronic health records, noting that from 2009 to 2012, the number of hospitals using electronic health records tripled.

Big data, Sebelius added, has gone from "lazy" to "active;" she also noted the Hospital Compare tool on Medicare.gov, the 1,000th data set added to HealthData.gov and HHS's "digital revolution ... in favor if open-sourced data, innovation and collaboration."

"I'd like to propose that as a health reform community, we make an agreement amongst ourselves, that from now on we will look at innovation as something that's happening "for" us, 'with' us, and 'by' us, rather than something that's happening 'to' us," Sebelius said.

Sebelius pointed to big data initiative Project Tycho, in which researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have digitized 125 years' worth of weekly surveillance reports for reportable diseases in the U.S., as an example of important innovation in the nonprofit and academic sector. 

Debates in Washington, D.C., may sometimes feel like they take place in an "evidence-free zone," but healthcare information technology provides the evidence needed to achieve better healthcare for all, Hillary Clinton said Wednesday during a keynote address at HIMSS14 in Orlando, Fla., echoing the theme of Sebelius' speech.

"Scare tactics have not helped us understand how to improve care and lower costs," Clinton said. "That's precisely why we need health information technology so badly--to give back to evidence-based policy debates."

To learn more:
- read Sebelius' full remarks