Funding Health IT
The Obama recovery plan contains $19 billion to help computerize medical records -- doctors weigh in on the pros and cons.
Some studies show that information technology cuts costs and improves healthcare in medical groups with hundreds or thousands of doctors. But most American doctors practice in groups of just ten or less, and they can't afford it. There's $19 billion of stimulus money to help doctors make the necessary investments, but are the benefits worth the risks? It can cause errors and spread them to many patients at once. It can also depersonalize the doctor-patient relationship, and even supporters concede that privacy issues have not been resolved. We hear doctors disagree on a major element of the President's healthcare reform.
Dr. Farzad Mostashari is Assistant Health Commissioner in the New York City Health Department. He's leading the city's efforts to roll out an electronic medical system to doctors and to hospitals. He explains health IT: "For us health IT is just a tool ... we're a health department and our goal is to improve the quality of care, particularly in medically under-served areas, through the use of ... health IT.
"Most doctors offices have computers in them to help with scheduling and billing, but they don't use their computers to help them take better care of their patients. And what we're essentially talking about is having computer systems that can help physicians understand their entire panel of patients -- be able to generate patient reminders, be able to have physicians be reminded about preventative services that are due, and to be able to improve the information and the visualization of that information that's available to them."
Other doctors weigh in on the pros and cons of health IT and President Obama's investment in its implementation:
- Stephen Soumerai: Director of the Drug Policy Research Program; Harvard Medical School
- Anne Armstrong-Coben: Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Columbia University
- Tom Sullivan: former President, Massachusetts Medical Society
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