A standardized means of exchanging healthcare information electronically would save nearly $87 billion annually if fully implemented at all healthcare systems, hospitals and physician offices, according to a cost-benefit analysis of "interoperability" of healthcare computer systems and data. Of the annual net savings from industrywide use of a single set of technical requirements and data definitions for electronic exchanges, about $34 billion would accrue to providers, $30 billion to payers and the balance to laboratories, radiology centers and pharmacies, according to the Center for Information Technology Leadership, Wellesley, Mass. The savings would derive from fewer tests and better efficiency, the center said, presenting its findings at the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society exhibition being held in Orlando, Fla., this week. Researchers used a 10-year implementation scenario, during which providers purchased new information systems allowing them to use a single set of technical requirements and data definitions. Under the scenario, the nation would break even in the fifth year and rack up a total of $395 billion in net returns by year 10.
Meanwhile, in the conference's keynote address, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said a national patient-centered electronic record could be up and running by Jan. 1, 2005, if a standard template were agreed upon and launched on the Web. Gingrich said the nation could start by having doctors securely record baseline physicals for all Medicare patients on the Web-based system. Other data could be added over four to five years. Gingrich is founder of the Center for Health Transformation, a Washington-based think tank. -- by John Morrissey