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TechNewsWorld.com

Feds Eye IT for Reducing Healthcare Costs

By Gene J. Koprowski
Jan 28, 2004 9:30 AM PT

Three times during the last week -- first in his State of the Union, then in his weekly radio address on Saturday, then during a campaign stop at a Baptist hospital in Arkansas on Monday -- President Bush touted technology as a way to reduce healthcare costs.

Feds Eye IT for Reducing Healthcare Costs

"By computerizing health records, we can avoid dangerous medical mistakes, reduce costs and improve care," said Bush.

The federal government has been trying to take the lead in this area, computerizing records for the military and linking more than 60 disparate databases to provide doctors with on-demand access to a patient's healthcare history, right at the point of delivery.

"While this has been a long-term dream for many within the healthcare community, it is rapidly becoming a reality," John Conley, a spokesperson for Integic, told TechNewsWorld.

Claims Lost 'In Transit'

A major contract has been given to developer Integic to roll out its system to 9 million patients around the world, including those in combat zones. The project is called the Composite Health Care System II (CHCS II).

Some real leadership is definitely needed in this area because, by most IT analyst estimates, the healthcare industry is a notorious laggard when it comes to embracing IT. Ninety percent of claims remittance is still done on paper, and 10 percent of those claims are lost in transit, according to healthcare IT provider AthenaHealth.

"The medical profession still relies on paper files for record-keeping, and this method is slower, more costly and more prone to errors," Kate McPherron, communications director of SwiftView, a maker of medical software, told TechNewsWorld.

Industry executives appear to agree with the White House's approach. Eliminating the old-fashioned way of doing business for hospitals might be key to cutting the cost of patient care, according to a survey of medical executives taken this week during the World Health Care Congress in Washington, D.C.

Containing Costs

Nearly eight in 10 executives surveyed said containing costs through IT, improving patient safety and focusing on the quality of care are top concerns.

Political leaders, including Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) and Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards, are using similar themes in their marketing messages, giving the movement some momentum.

The federal budget -- one of the biggest sectors of the U.S. economy -- is being reworked to foster IT innovation in healthcare.

Legislation to modernize the government's Medicare system provides hospitals with "financial incentives" if they improve their efficiency through IT.

Incentives To Modernize

The private sector also is moving forward with plans to reduce record-keeping costs, moving from paper-based records storage to keeping patient files in Adobe PDF or common image files.

Some examples of the trend are as follows:

  • The Mayo Clinic is using software to view and print records archived from its intensive care unit.
  • Capital BlueCross is providing medical providers with online billing statements, through a Web interface, to replace print runs.
  • Automated Health Consulting is viewing records from radiology electronically and then automatically coordinating billing between the provider, patient and payer.
  • NaviMedix is using a Web-based collaborative tool to help 70,000 physicians and 500 hospitals replace 50 paper-based processes, including claim status, claims submission, claims eligibility, benefits reporting and medical management.

Further innovations are expected. A healthcare IT provider, Kryptiq, is planning a demonstration of technology -- at an upcoming conference -- that can track medical e-mail and make sure records are stored securely.

"Healthcare providers must adopt IT solutions that can fully link all departments and make patient information available electronically, anytime, anywhere, so clinicians have what they need for optimal decision making, even at home or from a PDA," Kristen Saponaro, a spokesperson for Siemens Medical Solutions, told TechNewsWorld.


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