4 Questions with... Christine Chang, Healthcare Technology Analyst from Datamonitor.com

MDNG Primary Care, April 2008, Volume 10, Issue 4

4 Questions with... Christine Chang, Healthcare Technology Analyst from Datamonitor.com

1 Where do the leading presidential candidates stand on incorporating HIT into everyday physician practices?

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has a comprehensive and practical view, looking at healthcare from multiple

angles and aiming for a new, paperless HIT system. Her plan includes increasing reimbursements, requiring Medicare/Medicaid providers to use computerized physician order entries, and setting aside $50 million for developing an informational website to increase transparency, so patients will have access to information regarding hospitals and doctors and the kind of care they provide.

Candidate Barack Obama is very enthusiastic, proposing to spend $50 billion on HIT, but I’m not sure where all this money is going to come from. It’s more funding than we have ever had, but it is questionable how realistic this is, and unfortunately, his plan doesn’t have many additional specifics.

Candidate John McCain is talking more about telehealth, which is something that most other candidates are not talking about. It has a much lower profi le in the US, but Europe has been quite proactive about telehealth, a technology that allows physicians and patients to interact when they are in diff erent places, along the lines of videoconferencing. He is also suggesting a policy that would allow clinicians to practice across state lines, to gain the full benefi ts of the technology.

2 Based on these platforms, from which plan do you believe physicians would most benefit?

Right now, Clinton has more details laid out and seems to understand the underlying problems of healthcare better. For example, she is looking at reimbursement, which is one of the keys to HIT adoption. If reimbursed for it, physicians will adopt it, but if they are not, and have to put up the money themselves, then they will be slower to make changes.

3 Why is presidential support important for HIT adoption?

Without presidential support, it will not be on the top of people’s minds. With presidential support, we will be able to build momentum and move to the next level of modernized care. Ultimately, HIT adoption is inevitable, but it will happen much faster with presidential support and government funding. Of course, there are no guarantees that if anyone of the candidates is elected, they’ll be able to deliver on their proposals. The focus on universal insurance could overshadow healthcare technology.

A lot of academic medical centers already use these technologies and are spearheading this movement too, but we want smaller practices on board as well, because if they’re not, the full benefits of having an electronic system will not be realized.

4 What advice do you have for healthcare professionals hesitant about integrating HIT into their everyday office life?

At this point, there is no reason to start a new practice without an EHR system. Physicians that have incorporated IT, such as EHRs, barcoding, and computerized physician order entries, into their practice have said they would never go back to paper. It streamlines your workflow, making it much easier to fi nd patients. For example, during the Vioxx recall, it was much easier to search through a computerized program for patients taking Vioxx than searching through all the individual files in a paper-based office. The products offered now are also a lot easier to implement than they were a few years ago, and the costs have come down as well. It’s important to remember that what is out there now is just the first step; there’s a lot more to come.