Government, large employers will aid consumer push to health IT

SAN DIEGO'Consumers will ultimately demand more control over their health information, which will be the basis for improving the health care system, according to Intel Corp. chairman Craig Barrett.

He likened the hospital to a legacy mainframe system and the consumer to someone who pushes the system into a client-server system.

'The consumer is the disruptive force to change the mainframe into a client-server,' Barrett said yesterday at the annual conference of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.

However, the consumer doesn't have the purchasing power to do it alone. That will take the purchasing power of large employers and the federal government, Barrett added. And the government can also provide the environment in which change can occur.

Barrett is involved with the Health and Human Services Department's health IT efforts through his participation as a member of the public/private American Health Information Community, which is designed to encourage health IT adoption through its recommendations. Members are in a position to push out those recommendations in their organizations.

AHIC can raise issues and show how disparate systems can communicate with each other, he said. AHIC, which is led by HHS secretary Mike Leavitt, consists of physicians, hospitals, insurance plans, IT companies, consumer groups and government.

AHIC has developed a road map for early versions of a personal health record, bioterrorism response, electronic health record and online tools to help streamline chronic care by the end of the year. The first versions will test small components using existing technologies that will later become part of comprehensive systems.

'AHIC can help in standard definitions, but industry will control interoperability,' he said.

Eventually, health care IT tools will have to go into the home to serve an aging population with chronic conditions so that seniors can maintain their quality of life. For example, Barrett demonstrated a diabetes phone'a wireless phone that samples blood and transmits the captured data to a database.

Over time, 20 percent of patients with multiple chronic conditions will absorb up to 80 percent of health care costs, he said.

Everyday technologies are available that industry can change to meet some chronic-care needs, such as inexpensive sensors that can capture biological data.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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