Lawmakers: Medicare’s cost crisis starving health IT

The prognosis is simple for a health care system that is hemorrhaging money: Submit to rehabilitation in the form of widespread adoption of information technology or stand by as the condition worsens. That was the overall message delivered June 21 at the Capitol Hill Health Information Technology Showcase in Washington.

“We are headed for the cliff,” said Sen. Kent Conrad, (D-N.D.). He cited projections that, without meaningful intervention, expenditures on Medicare and Medicaid could rise to 20 percent of the gross domestic product over coming decades.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), said failure to fix the systems guarantees that Congress “will be forced to make savage cuts” later.

However, implementing necessary IT solutions amounts to major surgery. Among the challenges are an absence of interoperability among different  health IT applications, a lack of universal broadband access, insufficient political will at the national level and misalignment of the financial incentives needed to propel rapid adoption of health IT.

{Quotes from Rep Patrick Kennedy: “The public’s concerns aren’t misplaced, said Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), who predicted that failure to secure patients’ electronic records would invite misuse of the data by life insurance companies, big pharmaceutical companies and other corporate interests. “To move forward with IT, it needs to have as its cornerstone privacy,” Kennedy said.”}

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