A public-private coalition for the advancement of healthcare information technology issued a preliminary "roadmap" for reaching common IT standards and techniques, so that information in one computer network would be available to other networks in all healthcare settings. The 70-page report by Connecting for Health also addressed the financial challenge for providers, especially small- to medium-size ambulatory-care practices, where IT penetration is the lowest. The coalition said subsidies of $3 to $6 per patient visit or 50 cents to $1 per patient per month would be a sufficient starting point to encourage and sustain widespread adoption of basic electronic-record systems in primary-care practices. The total cost would be $7 billion per year for three years, or 1.2% of the total spent on ambulatory care in 2003. Connecting for Health plans to issue a final roadmap and detailed plans for action in September.
The group has a track record for moving IT issues forward. In September 2002 it rallied around a set of common standards for electronic health records, communication with pharmacies, clinical laboratory results and data transmission from medical equipment to information systems. Six months later the federal government embraced the same set of standards. Read the report. -- by John Morrissey