The federal government should play a leading role in efforts to make healthcare safe and effective, and providing funding and other incentives for healthcare organizations to use standard information technology tools is a big part of that, according to an Institute of Medicine report. Healthcare institutions need compatible technology capable of collecting and sharing essential information on patients and their care, the IOM report said. "We recognize there is an upfront cost to healthcare providers and systems," said Paul Tang, chief medical information officer of Palo Alto (Calif.) Medical Foundation and chairman of the committee that wrote the report. "For that reason, because of the public health nature of it, we believe that the federal government should step up and play a major leadership role not only in guiding and coordinating the efforts but also in paying for much of the cost -- and in particular for safety net institutions."
HHS has moved into that role by adopting specific methods of representing various clinical data electronically, by licensing a system for uniform clinical terminology on behalf of the healthcare industry and by pushing for a standard model for an electronic health record. The IOM report said Congress should authorize and fund further HHS efforts to lead a public-private partnership for adoption of commercial data standards in the name of patient safety. Budding efforts by the CMS to pay higher reimbursement for better care to Medicare patients also could provide an incentive for providers, Tang said. "Electronic systems are the only way to systematically raise the bar overall for quality and patient safety." Read the report. -- by John Morrissey