A new healthcare technology organization launched by the American Hospital Association will jump into the Washington fray just weeks after its formation.
The newly formed National Alliance for Health Information Technology aims to have a bar-coding plan in place later this month when the Food and Drug Administration meets to discuss the issue, said Gary Mecklenburg, president and chief executive officer of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and immediate past chairman of the AHA.
The AHA last week unveiled details for the organization, which is designed to coordinate and improve healthcare-based technology systems (June 24, p. 16).
Although the AHA has led the formation of the group for the past year and a half, it will now step back to be a coordinator, Mecklenburg said.
"I don't know that we have the solutions, but we want to be a part of the solutions," said Mecklenburg, who is chairman of the organizing team for the new alliance.
Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) encouraged the 280 attendees at the group's launch in Washington to aggressively pursue an integrated technology healthcare system-and soon.
"If you don't, we will," she warned.
The alliance will be an independent, not-for-profit organization funded by dues-paying members. A central governing body will set priorities and develop projects, as well as manage fund-raising and communications. Initially the organization will be housed at the AHA's Washington office, but once it is staffed, it will move to its own offices, said AHA spokesman Richard Wade. Washington will be its likely home.
By the end of last week, 40 organizations had signed up as founding members, contributing about $750,000 for this year's dues, said Alicia Mitchell, spokeswoman for the AHA.
Annual membership is based on the member organization's annual revenue. Companies that take in more than $1 billion will pay $50,000. Those with annual revenue from $100 million to $1 billion will pay $25,000. Companies with revenue between $10 million and $100 million will pay $10,000, and those with revenue less than $10 million will pay $2,500.
About half are in the $25,000-or-more range, Mitchell said.
The alliance counts among its founding members the American Medical Group Association, Premier, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the American Association of Health Plans and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. The Georgia Hospital Association signed up as the first state hospital association. Membership also includes such professional organizations as the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, the Healthcare Financial Management Association and the American Health Information Management Association; and vendors such as Bridge Medical, Solana Beach, Calif.; GE Medical Systems Information Technologies, Milwaukee; and Siemens Medical Solutions, Malvern, Pa.
The Federation of American Hospitals, whose for-profit members make up 15% of the U.S. hospital sector, has not signed up. Its members participated in information technology meetings in Washington with the National Quality Foundation and the Institute of Medicine earlier this year but has no plans to form its own technology group, said federation spokesman Richard Coorsh.
The federation will track the new organization's success, though. "This is an issue of concern for our members," Coorsh said.
Bar coding for healthcare products will be the alliance's first priority. It aims to have a plan in place later this month by the time the FDA meets to discuss the issue, Mecklenburg said. A July 10 conference call is planned to discuss the issue.
In August, members of the alliance are scheduled to meet in Chicago to decide the next step. "There is a lot of work to be done," Mecklenburg said.