Verizon Communications Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ivan Seidenberg said on Wednesday that the company has implemented an electronic personal health-record system for its more than 900,000 active employees, retirees and their families. Called Verizon HealthZone PHR, the system works in conjunction with WebMD to allow individuals to store personalized health information on a password-protected Web site, he said.
"We think this kind of a simple connection creates enormous consumer power to drive change across the system," Seidenberg said.
In Washington yesterday for a panel discussion that featured government and private-sector leaders, Seidenberg said Verizon's healthcare tab was about $3.5 billion last year, and, overall, about 90% of those transactions happen hand-to-hand via phone or by fax.
"We come at this from the whole idea of what can we do to help support the infrastructure for health distribution processes," he said. "We think a healthy introduction of health IT will help."
Seidenberg, who sat on the President Bush's Commission on Systemic Interoperability, said that health IT ultimately will increase the efficiency of healthcare delivery and make the industry more responsive to consumers' and providers' needs.
"The key finding (of the commission) was the idea that introducing health IT was important, but it was more important to put it in the hands of the consumers so that (they) would have the information and the power to implement change across our system," he said.
The Verizon system, he said, would help employees "make more informed decisions and increase the quality of interactions that they have with their doctors and their carriers."
Seidenberg's comments were made during a one-year checkup of the Bush administrations four-pronged plan to improve healthcare quality while driving down its costs. HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt led the panel discussion, which featured the chief executives of the five top insurers in the U.S., as well as representatives from the White House and other members of the purchaser communities.
Leavitt has staked his reform agenda on four so-called "cornerstones of a value-driven healthcare system," which include the use of electronic health records, the ability to compare quality and cost data, and incentives for those who combine all three.
In less than a year's time, the Value-Driven Health Care Initiative has come to include federal and state governments, close to 775 employers and several labor, physician and hospital groups. More than 100 million Americans are now served by health plans committed to the initiative.
"We are organizing the healthcare market to achieve better quality healthcare at lower cost for all Americans," Leavitt said. "That is the definition of value."What do you think? Write us with your comments at [email protected]. Please include your name, title and hometown.