Computers, Health and Boston

A couple of items of note on computers and health AKA  health information technology:

Even though the federal government is spending $2 billion to wire the health system, Heathcare IT News reports that, Vish Sankaran, speaking in Boston for the federal HIT effort, said: “We don’t want the federal government to be in this business forever.” The aim, he said, is for government to “raise the bar, tip the market,” and then engage with the private sector…

Mass Device has a long Q & A with one of the local industry players: … PatientKeeper Inc. president and CEO Paul Brient on why healthcare IT won’t save the healthcare system, why it’s still crucial to healthcare reform and how it could revolutionize the practice of medicine.

A bit of background.  The idea that computers can cut health care costs seems pretty abstract. But, with all the money wasted on claims processing, prescribing errors and questionable care, it makes sense. Computers could get at the cost of administration, medical errors and unnecessary testing and treatment. So, the Feds are investing $2 billion into the push for electronic medical records, computerized prescribing and patient portals.  BHN and the Globe have reported that docs and policy makers from Massachusetts – in many cases on loan from Partners – are deep into the government planning. A huge industry is growing up around it, much of it here.

To see some of how this will work, see  a post from Dr. John Halamka on connecting BIDMC with a network of area doctors.  Dr. Halamka is the CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Nationally, the effort has hit some rough patches, he notes. In a recent blog post, the self-described geek doctor tries to put the setbacks into perspective.

It’s 2010 and everyone in healthcare IT is complaining. Meaningful Use is too hard. Too many grants have simultaneous deadlines. There are more policy and technology changes than ever before in history.


In another post, he and his class came up with a list of potential barriers to getting medical record into computers.

 The creation of a digital health will be complex and problematic. For a less wonkish, more local  perspective on all this, BHN senior writer Tinker Ready spent some time in Newburyport this fall reporting on the effort to wire that town for healthcare. Her radio report ran on WBUR radio’s “World of Ideas” on  Dec. 27.  Click here to listen to the Newburyport story alone or here to listen to the entire show.


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