Yesterday, President Bush gave a speech to a small business conference in Washington, DC. Among many other things, the president touched on how health care delivery and costs can be positively impacted by technology. The president said:
...the health care field is not a very transparent place when it comes to price and quality. I mean, how many of you really ever shopped for health care? How many of you have ever actually gotten on the Internet and tried to compare price before you make a health care decision? Not many, because, one, the system has somebody else paying the bills for you, and, two, there's not a lot of transparency. So this government is going to continue to work with folks in the health care field to make sure that price and quality are available to you as a consumer. It's amazing what happens when people have information at their fingertips before they make decisions.
The president is right, of course. Yet, our guess is that the administration's view on this is aspirational rather than hey-we-have-the-tools-to-make-this-happen-today-ional. However, in a nice bit of well-timed coincidence, the Business 2.0 blog ran a bit yesterday on a new Web service called Healthia that:
"...lets you find health plans and write reviews about your doctor, has a really great new price-comparison feature that points to the coming era of consumer-driven healthcare. You can put in your zipcode and see what local hospitals charge for different procedures. For instance, in New York City, the list price for a craniotomy can range from $43,000 (at Memorial Hospital for Cancer) to $122,000 (at Beth Israel), according to the site. It also tells you which hospital does the procedure the most often (New York Presbyterian) and which hospital across the country is the very cheapest (Hospital De La Concepcion in Puerto Rico only charges $8,300)."
In following and in being involved in the eHealth debates of the past couple years, we're struck by the divide between high-level rhetoric for greater integration of tech in health care practices and the reality of actual technologies in play solving real problems. Most policymakers and many companies focus on what is going to happen 10 years from now, but few point to the collective of significant initial steps that IT is playing in transforming health care. These can be used as tangible examples of what consumers might gain from an implementation of the vision of universal electronic health care records connected by a National Health Information Network. Indeed, the president continued in his speech yesterday:
And another way to help wring out the costs in health care is to help encourage and expand the health care industry to adopt information technology as an integral part of its industry. Many of you have done that. Many of you have used information technology to help enhance the productivity of your business. That's generally not the case in health care. I mean, think about the guy who goes to the hospital, and he's carrying the file with him where all the pages are handwritten. It's kind of a problem in health care, since most doctors can't write legibly to begin with. (Laughter.)
And so I believe we ought to work to make sure we have electronic health records for each individual here in America that, one, protects your safety, but, two, carries your history with you so that we help wring out additional costs in medicine, and, at the same time, reduce errors.
Again, agreed 100%. And for this audience, it's probably the right touch on introducing the concept of the benefits of eHealth. Still, this is pretty much the same message coming from top policymakers for the last couple years. There has been great strides in technology since these concepts received a presidential stamp of approval.
Conversely, and in the even bigger rhetoric/reality divide, there has been minimal legislation passed to help enable the grand eHealth vision and to coalesce all the disparate innovative efforts happening in the market and in various states. And, no one expects anything to happen in Congress this year.
The DC eHealth conversation needs to start getting real and tangible so the average consumer gets it. Maybe once it becomes less of an ethereal concept (despite all the very real accidental death that occur because of health errors that could be solved by Health IT), than the rhetoric over it's value and the reality of signed legislation will finally bridge the divide.
For more 463 coverage of eHealth click here.