Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse: HIT funding must focus on 'leaders'

While investments in healthcare IT tools have the potential to pay off "in ways we can't even think of," first, such funding first must be focused in the right areas, according to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who spoke Wednesday at a press conference as part of the HIMSS HIT Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. during National Health IT Week.

Currently, Whitehouse (pictured) said, funding isn't focusing enough on leaders who can make breakthroughs.

"If you think of a snake with a warthog in its belly and a big bulge, that's kind of where everybody is--they're in the middle," Whitehouse said. "We tend to pour our money on the middle. Well, the middle isn't going to make the difference. It's the head that's going to make the breakthroughs."

Instead, Whitehouse said, disproportionate funding should be given to innovators who can help such tools go viral.

"Then you don't need to propagate it," he said. "It's self-propagating because it's a proven effective solution."

Former Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer, meanwhile--who worked as part of a HIMSS State Advisory Roundtable to release a new roadmap this week on mobile healthcare in the U.S.--said he believes that the use of such technology needs to be more personalized and telehealth licensures should be granted across state lines, adding  that policy has not caught up with technology.

"We should be practicing medicine the same way we're accustomed to doing everything else," Geringer said. "The delivery of medicine is the practice of a personal interaction between the patient and the provider. We ought to guide our policy to recognize that, because that's the way that everything else is going."

Rep. Mike Honda, who is working to create an Office of Wireless Health within the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, echoed Geringer's sentiments.

"I think we've made a lot of gains in technology," Honda said. "We've been able to collapse time and distance … but to apply that to the doctor-patient relationship, I haven't seen anything yet that's addressed waiting time in the office and being seen in appropriate ways."

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