Report says e-health apps can help keep Medicare afloat

Report says e-health apps can help keep Medicare afloat

Applying emerging health IT tools to patient care would help avoid projected bankruptcy of Medicare within 15 years, the new Medicare Trustees report says.

The adoption of electronic-health technology is one of several reforms the report cited to keep the nation's retirees medical system in business.

If left unchanged, the trust fund that pays seniors' hospital benefits will go bust in 2019, the report said, seven years earlier than predicted last year. The outlook for the Medicare hospital trust fund deteriorated significantly from last year, due to lower projected tax revenues for 2003 and higher spending on patient hospital care, the report said. It gets worse after 2010 as baby boomers begin to retire in droves.

The Medicare Modernization Act passed late last year contains provisions that will enable Medicare to improve its financial outlook. 'The reforms built into the new Medicare law often get overshadowed by the new prescription drug benefits, but these reforms provide more tools to use to improve the solvency of the program,' said Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson, one of the trustees.

Added Treasury Department secretary and managing trustee John Snow, 'Controlling health care costs is the real key to the long-run fiscal sustainability of both Medicare and the federal budget,' and IT use is a crucial element.

'We need to employ more fully the efficiencies of IT in the health care sector, such as physician order entry and electronic medical records,' Snow said.

Electronic prescriptions would reduce medical errors due to misread handwritten prescriptions and doctor orders and mistaken allergies. HHS has awarded numerous grants for testing various technologies in hospitals, including creating incentives for bar-coding systems which will let hospitals implement physician order entry.

The report also endorsed the implementation of disease management systems that would integrate care from multiple many providers of patients with chronic illnesses, and applications that would issue patients daily medical care reminders and provide information about simple testing procedures they could do themselves.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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