If healthcare information technology is so good, why are the government, health insurers and special-interest groups pushing so hard to mandate that healthcare providers use it? It would seem that if healthcare IT is all its cracked up to be, you wouldnt have to put a financial gun to providers heads to adopt it.
IT mandates off-course
Let the market drive the adoption of IT systems in healthcare
In our Feb. 18 cover story (p. 6), Modern Healthcare reporter Rebecca Vesely revealed whats motivating the nations health insurers, led by the national Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, to lobby hard for a federal law that would require physicians to use electronic prescribing systems as a condition of participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The reason, of course, is money. Insurers stand to enjoy a financial windfall from
e-prescribing systems prompting physicians to order lower-cost generic drugs for their patients instead of the more expensive name-brand drugs. Insurers never give away anything. Except, that is, e-prescribing tools worth millions of dollars to physicians. You knew there had to be a reason.
The Blues plans are pursuing this money-making scheme through a front organization called the American Health Information Community, or AHIC. Scott Serota, president of the Blues, is a member of AHIC, and AHIC recommended that HHS push for federal legislation requiring physicians to e-prescribe. Such a provision narrowly missed being included in the year-end Medicare bill passed by Congress. But the matter is sure to be considered again this year.
The Massachusetts Blues plan is trying to pull a similar scheme in that state. Last month, the plan announced that it would require hospitals and physicians starting in 2012 to use computerized physician order-entry systems as a condition of participating in its pay-for-performance system. The Massachusetts Blues also is a founding member of something called the eRx Collaborative whose mission is to expand the use of e-prescribing systems in the state. Other Blues plans and private health insurers are sure to follow suit.
Those who loath an expanded government role in the delivery of healthcare services in this county should be irate. The government with health insurers cheering it on wants to dictate to healthcare providers that they use certain types of healthcare IT systems or it will put them out of business by kicking them out of the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Its just another step toward a government-run healthcare system to the elation of single-payer advocates. Maybe thats what Serota meant when he said e-prescribing is an essential part of universal coverage.
What healthcare providers use in terms of IT should be decided by market competition. If certain IT systems prevent errors or reduce costs or improve quality or generate efficiencies, then forward-looking hospitals and physicians will adopt them and leave their competitors behind. In this era of transparency and consumerism, patients could choose providers based on these IT characteristics if they feel they make a difference in patient care or service. But IT advocates and special interests are growing inpatient with market forces and want the government to step in.
In addition to being another step toward a government-run, single-payer healthcare system, IT mandates from the government and insurers surely will drive up healthcare costs. Hospitals and physicians forced to buy and install IT systems of all shapes and sizes will pass those costs along to payers and ultimately patients through higher charges. Advocates of IT mandates will argue that those costs will be offset by the savings generated by the increased use of IT. Raise your hand if you think the feds or health insurers will pass those savings back again to providers or patients?
We believe in all the potential good that the increased use of IT can bring to healthcare providers and the patients they tre
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