The National Health Information Infrastructure conference, sponsored by HHS, concluded today with the presentation of several recommendations for developing a voluntary national healthcare IT network.
Creating incentives, promoting quality and balancing privacy with public health needs are key requirements. Additionally, health IT stakeholders widely agree that the federal government, in partnership with private enterprise, should make funding of an interconnected, standards-based electronic health network a priority for the near and long term.
Working group leaders presented their recommendations today in Washington, D.C..
How to approach issues such as unique patient and provider identifiers within a national electronic system and the role of local and regional demonstration projects produced slightly less consensus, but spirits were high regarding the progress made at the meeting.
"This is a road that has never been taken before," says William Yasnoff, M.D., senior advisor for NHII at HHS. "I don't think the desired state really exists anywhere, but I know we can get there."
Yasnoff says HHS plans to post all the conference recommendations on its NHII Web site.
The meeting gathered health informatics stakeholders to develop a consensus for national action. In addition to plenary sessions, small breakout groups led by facilitators and experts met to make recommendations in eight areas: architecture, consumer health, financial incentives, homeland security, privacy and confidentiality, research and population health, safety and quality, and standards and vocabulary.
Speaking for the financial incentives group, Molly Joel Coye, M.D., CEO of the not-for-profit Health Technology Center based in San Francisco, recommends that Congress and the administration devote initial minimum funding of $10 billion to developing a national health information infrastructure.
Coye says her colleagues also recommend liberating increased private investment by immediately creating safe harbors under fraud and abuse and anti-kickback statutes.
"We need to increase the potential for hospitals and others to invest in physician information technology and pool community resources," she says.
Additionally, Coye says CMS should adopt a coordinated set of payment incentives to encourage investment and use of IT and reward process and quality improvements. It is the same sentiment David Bates, M.D. expresses on behalf of the working group for patient safety and quality.
Payers should provide differential payment for the delivery of higher quality and safer care, and devote resources to develop and maintain quality and safety performance measure standards, says Bates, medical director for clinical and quality analysis at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
Other recommendations are to elevate the research priority of quality and safety to $1 billion annually of the $70 billion currently spent on all medical research; the development of a national quality measurement database; and a substantial increase in funds for training clinicians in medical informatics.
"It's going to be a big bill for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality," Bates says.