US leaders call for better use of IT in healthcare

Using IT to improve the quality of care is not optional for healthcare providers and the federal government, said Newt Gingrich,...

Leveraging IT to improve the quality of care is not optional for healthcare providers and the federal government, said Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the US House of Representatives.

He was speaking to more than 400 US clinicians, insurers, and technology suppliers at a health care conference at Brown University.

"Paper records and prescriptions kill," said Gingrich. "Mistakes made by depending on paper keep happening; the thing is, they're avoidable. Everyday that we don't act, people will continue to die unnecessarily."

Although healthcare technology use is increasing in the US Gingrich said more must be done.

"Look at e-prescribing," he said. "The benefits are apparent, and fewer mistakes are being made. Also, patients deserve the right to have access to their own health records, which can help them to manage healthcare on their own."

Gingrich said a web-based individual health record system would be integrated to specific systems based on a patient's condition or needs.

"Over the next 10 years the federal government will spend $5tn (£2.75tn) on healthcare," said Gingrich. "If $1bn or $2bn of that could be allocated for creating an IHR system, individual, web-based, HIPAA-compliant health records could be created for every American."

Gingrich said these records would require a one-off start-up fee of $10, and yearly maintenance would cost patients $3 per year. He added that along with increasing efficiency it would eliminate 40% of paperwork within four years.

Congressman Patrick Kennedy is spearheading clinical technology use in Rhode Island with a plan for the state to build a health information infrastructure.

"The technology is out there to give us what we want," he said. "We need to make user-friendly [healthcare] technologies more available in the US."

Incentives could go a long way in making these technologies more available and affordable, according to Gingrich. "The government is the biggest purchaser in the world, and there are ways for them to provide financial incentives for those using technology."

Jeff Berman writes for Health-IT World

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