Enterprise Software

HIMSS09: The gold rush is on for health care IT

Jay Rollins notes that the $19 billion open to health care IT has had an effect on the exhibitions and offerings at this year's Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference. Read some of the startling statistics presented at the event.

Jay Rollins notes that the $19 billion open to health care IT has had an effect on the exhibitions and offerings at this year's Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference. Read some of the startling statistics presented at the event.

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More than 900 exhibitors have filled the halls of the McCormick Convention Center in Chicago during this year's Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference. Many of the exhibitors tweaked their offerings to fit the requirements for the $19 billion open to health care IT. For instance, an entire track of educational sessions are geared toward how CIOs of health care companies can take advantage of this opportunity and get their share of the stimulus pie.

George C. Halvorson, Chairman and CEO of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, was the keynote speaker on Monday morning. He is pushing for a more systematic approach to coordinated health care.

To give some idea of the state of health care IT, Halvorson noted the goal of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) is that, by the year 2020, 90% of care in America will be based upon scientific evidence. Many believe that goal is too easy and others view it as impossible, according to Halvorson. It would be like Boeing saying that its 10 year goal is that its planes will not crash 90% of the time. Any other industry comparison would have similar stark differences between its goals and those stated by the IOM. Most companies strive for six sigma (three errors per million), and health care is struggling to get to two sigma.

Other startling statistics were presented based upon internal research, and research conducted through a Rand survey, which include the following:

  • Barely 50% of adult diagnoses and treatments are correct.
  • 46% of child diagnoses and treatments are correct.
  • 80% of health care costs can be attributed to 10% of the patients.
  • Diabetes represents 32% of Medicare costs and is treated correctly only 8% of the time.

Clearly, there is a lot of work that needs to be done and not a lot of time to do it.

From an IT perspective, it appears that health care IT is pretty straightforward. We have been building out data aggregation systems for decades now. If we have the data, we can build it. Other issues become roadblocks to getting these things done and not the least of which is patient privacy.

In another session, Dr. Deborah Peel outlined the issues associated with patient privacy. In the psychiatry field, patients are very concerned about privacy. "600,000 people refuse to get early diagnosis and treatment because of privacy fears," said Peel. She also pointed to the military as an example. Medical records in the military are not private and, as a result, soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan are committing suicide at the highest rate in 30 years because they do not seek help dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Every vendor at the conference has a solution to these problems; one interesting idea (although it was oversimplified in the presentation) is the idea of a health record bank. The relative newness of these technologies will flesh out relatively quickly. This is due to the huge incentives included in the stimulus bill for health care providers to become early adopters.

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