eHealth is an emerging field in the intersection of medical informatics, public health and business. The market was recently forecasted to grow from $7.5-billion in 2008 to $11.3 billion in 2013. While politicians have made significant announcements of their support of this innovation, their commitment needs to translate into pragmatic deliverables.
Understanding that we could save billions of dollars by transmitting all Medicare prescriptions electronically is one thing, implementing it is another. Across the globe, politicians are concerned about high security, accuracy and privacy demands. Yes, there is a need for standardization of eHealth practices, but these are not insurmountable. Consider another industry with similar pressures that has successfully overcome these challenges -- finance and banking. The banking system network, including regional boundaries & security controls, is a great example of what can be done when private enterprise understands a need.
The term, eHealth, characterizes not only a technical development, but also a state-of-the-mind, a way of thinking, an attitude, and a commitment for networked, global thinking, to improve health care logically, regionally, and worldwide by using information and communication technology. (Source: G. Eysenback for the Journal of Medical Internet Research)
“The high tech industry is a strong supporter of eHealth initiatives such as ePrescribing that lower healthcare costs and improve the safety and delivery of care,” said Matthew Kazmierczak, Vice President, Research and Industry Analysis, AeA. “Now we need to ensure that policymakers at the state level help promote ePerscribing and that medical practices across the country embrace the technology.”
As more IT vendors comply with government regulation, the systems integrate better and customers and clients receive more efficient products. eHealth developments are improving the right of access to quality healthcare across the globe – regardless of the patient’s personal condition or geographic location.
The AeA just released its third Competitiveness Series report endorsing eHealth, arguing that it will lower costs and enhance the safety, reliability, convenience, and delivery of healthcare. The report, entitled eHealth 301: Electronic Prescriptions, builds on two earlier reports analyzing electronic medical records and telemedicine.
As a result of these findings, the AeA anticipates that healthcare will continue to surface as a public policy issue, driven not only by the large number of people uninsured, but also by businesses whose healthcare costs continue to rise.
The AeA currently has 20 lobbyists working in top technology states, providing intelligence about legislation, and the capability to communicate with key legislators. The AeA is actively supporting, promoting and impacting legislation to spur the deployment of Health IT initiatives – such as electronic medical records – to reduce costs, improve quality and save lives. Specifically, the AeA wants to see legislation that would:
- Stimulate the deployment of universal broadband by promoting municipal broadband initiatives and by targeting incentives toward rural areas that currently are without broadband access;
- Support the Federal Communication Commission’s plan to invest in broadband infrastructure to enable telemedicine in rural and impoverished areas;
- Increase funding for the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth within the Department of Health and Human Services;
- Enact financial incentives to help small- and medium-sized healthcare providers implement EMR and telemedicine systems, including grants, loans, and tax credits for the initial investment in the necessary equipment, software, training, and support;
- Adjust the reimbursement rates for Medicaid and Medicare to include costs associated with EMRs and telemedicine;
- Encourage states to enact cross-licensing agreements that permit medical practitioners to provide services across state lines; and
- Leverage federal and state purchasing power to push for widespread adoption and utilization of EMRs and telemedicine using nationwide interoperable standards.
All installments of the AeA Competitiveness Series can be downloaded for free at: www.aeanet.org/cs.
We’ve already seen how Web 2.0 technologies have transformed the ways people and businesses organize themselves and interact with each other. Once we put these technologies to work in health care – and address the need for added privacy and security protections that health care information requires -- we will be able to improve the quality, safety, and affordability of care in as many ways as our imaginations will allow.