Can Technology Heal the Health Care Industry?

By Holstein, William J. | Chief Executive (U.S.), March 2006 | Go to article overview

Can Technology Heal the Health Care Industry?


Holstein, William J., Chief Executive (U.S.)


What's needed are common standards, privacy assurances. BY WILLIAM J. HOLSTEIN

It seems like such a no-brainer: Introduce more information technology into the relatively primitive U.S. health care system to drive out huge amounts of waste, thereby lowering costs and improving the quality of care.

But, in fact, it is a monstrously complex challenge-and not because of technological problems per se. The real stumbling blocks are human and institutional. Doctors and nurses are not trained to embrace IT, and are suspicious that too much computerization could be used to measure their performance. Doctors and hospitals don't really have an economic incentive to drive down costs because, at the end of the day, they expect that insurance companies and private employers will pay the tab. Insurers and employers want greater automation, but don't necessarily want to pay for it. Even if they did, they would lack the power to impose it on hospitals, doctors and nurses.

Understanding the real nature of the challenge might start the journey toward lasting solutions, participants at a Nov. 29 roundtable in Chicago concluded. The session, called "The Role of Information Technology in Creating a New Health Care System," was sponsored by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. The subject was, and remains, timely because the Bush Administration has appointed a "czar" to champion the issue-David J. Brailer, whose title is National Coordinator for Health Information Technology within the Dept. of Health and Human Services.

The heart of the problem is that the health care industry is so fragmented and in some ways, still a cottage industry, said Gail Boudreaux, president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. "There are multiple parties, all with different economic benefits and outcomes," Boudreaux explained. "And those who fund one piece of the technology may not get the benefit of the investment, and that's part of the challenge."

Another fundamental problem is that there are no consistent standards to guide more computerization. Participants noted that the current systems used by hospitals, doctors, insurers and employers are not interoperable. "It's really about human behavior and process changes," said Mychelle Mowry, vice president of global health industries for Oracle. "We could have the best technology, but if we don't understand how to improve our processes and then support those new processes with the technology, then we haven't accomplished anything."

Just how many administrative dollars could be saved? Out of a total health care bill of an estimated $1.7 trillion, certainly tens of billions. But no one really knows for sure because of the complexity of the system. Scott Serota, CEO of the entire Blue Cross and Blue Shield system, which insures more than 94 million Americans, says his administrative costs are less than 10 percent of premiums. "But there are administrative aspects of physicians' offices, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies," Serota said. "Everybody has their own administration. We consider that a medical expense, but if you break it down to their level, it's an administrative expense."

It may be wrong, however, to concentrate on merely improving administrative costs. The real need is to change the behavior of physicians and patients. "How can I take care of diabetic kids over their life at a case rate that can be reduced by 40 percent?" asked Edward Sellers, CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina, which handles 400 million claims a year. "Let's go to work on that, and your savings will fall out of that. You've got to focus on diagnostic outcomes," not just administrative costs.

Much of the discussion focused on the computerization of individual health records, which are still overwhelmingly paper-based. Computerizing them obviously poses issues of privacy, which would have to be managed well, but pressure could be building to introduce more computerization. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Can Technology Heal the Health Care Industry?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.