IT experts push for digital records

    The National Coordinator for Health Information Technology visited Philadelphia Tuesday urging local IT experts to help doctors and hospitals care for patients more efficiently. David Blumenthal called information the “lifeblood of medicine” and labeled technology its “circulatory system.”

    The National Coordinator for Health Information Technology visited Philadelphia Tuesday urging local IT experts to help doctors and hospitals care for patients more efficiently. David Blumenthal called information the “lifeblood of medicine” and labeled technology its “circulatory system.”

    Listen:

    [audio:091110tetech.mp3]

    Top IT administrators from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware also participated in the summit. Bill O’Byrne is New Jersey’s coordinator of health information technology.

    He pointed to the Garden State’s progress in making deals to share vaccination information across state lines. So far, Pennsylvania, New York and Guam have signed up.

    O’Byrne: There’s a lot of military personnel that are in Guam, and they got their shots in Fort Dix, New Jersey and we’re able to show that they got them in Fort Dix, New Jersey, so now they don’t have to have these shots again when they are in Guam.

    O’Byrne says the health system wastes millions of dollars each year on unnecessary, duplicate medical care because most states can’t share health information quickly.

    In coming years, Medicare and Medicaid will pay bonuses to providers who can prove they are using technology in ways that improve health and reduce error caused by poor information exchange.

    Experts call it “meaningful use.”

    Jim Younkin is project director for the Keystone Health Information Exchange in Central Pennsylvania.

    Younkin: It’s important to note that after 2015 the methodology switches from the carrot to the stick. And if they don’t meet meaningful use, then they will actually see a reduction in their Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.

    Information technology is touted as a money saver, but many experts say IT won’t significantly lower costs until a “critical mass” of doctors and hospitals are sharing information.

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