Why Health IT Is So Valuable to the Future of Healthcare
This Thursday morning, I had the chance to address the ninth annual Health Datapalooza, a large gathering of entrepreneurs, physicians, academics and innovators who come together to exchange ideas about health information technology. This year, as in past years, HHS had plenty of news to share.
In particular, I previewed how our work on health IT is a key piece of one of the four priorities Secretary Azar has laid out for our department: transforming our healthcare system to one that pays for value. Alongside maximizing the promise of health IT, delivering a value-based system will also require improving transparency in price and quality, pioneering bold new models in Medicare and Medicaid, and removing government burdens that impede care coordination.
The key theme uniting these four strategies for value-based transformation is the recognition that value is best determined not by central players, but by a market of many players.
Such a market, of course, requires the free flow of information, where technology can play a key role.
HHS is approaching health IT the same way we approach value-based care in general. Government has a role to play, sometimes as a first-mover or a standard-setter. But we believe the most significant progress can be made by providing incentives and encouragement to the private sector to find new ways to innovate, collaborate and communicate.
These themes run through the presentations delivered by HHS leaders at Datapalooza this week. Dr. Don Rucker and his staff at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, for example, presented on how HHS is working to advance interoperability of health records and data—not by setting down single standards, but by laying out objectives and letting private sector actors use tools like open APIs to accomplish them.
CMS Administrator Seema Verma discussed how CMS is working to put data in patients’ hands—not just because patients have a right to it, but because value-based care will rely in part on empowering individuals to make informed decisions.
FDA has an important role in health IT as well. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb spoke about FDA’s new forward-leaning stance in regulating medical devices—which includes even software applications that are, under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, regulated as devices. It’s a long way from a world of approving stents and hip replacements to one where we’re looking at Wi-Fi and smartphone-connected devices, and FDA is working hard to keep pace.
President Trump, Secretary Azar and I are steadfast supporters of open data, innovation in healthcare, new advances for health IT, and moving to a value-based system for a simple reason: We have seen and heard from so many Americans for whom today’s healthcare system isn’t working.
Technology can make a huge difference. I’ve seen how telehealth can bring psychiatric care to rural Alaska Native villages, and we’re now working at HHS to see how telehealth can be used to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid abuse across the country.
The next steps beyond telehealth will be even more remarkable: We’ll be using AI and remote patient monitoring to help inform doctors and nurses of how their patients are doing, without patients ever having to leave the comfort of their homes.
If we fully harness the power of health IT and private sector innovation, we have a bright future of better, cheaper healthcare ahead of us. HHS looks forward to continued engagement with innovators like we had at Datapalooza to make that future a reality.
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