On August 16, 2011, Dr. Alfred Hamilton from the School of Public Health and Health Service at George Washington University and Dr. Jay Conyers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UT Health) moderated a symposium on the George Washington University campus titled, “The Role and Future of Health Information Technology in an Era of Health Care Transformation.” The symposium featured keynote speakers from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
“As an educational institution charged with training the next generation of health industry professionals, it is important to encourage opportunities for open dialogue and resolution that address the health information challenges of today” said the symposium coordinator Dr. Alfred Hamilton, visiting assistant professor, Department of Health Services Management and Leadership, GW School of Public Health and Health Services.
The objective of the day-long symposium was to identify how current policy initiatives can be harnessed and to provide comments and suggestions for practical solutions to address the barriers and enablers that impact interoperability, data sharing, efficacy and efficiency, and development of a connected learning healthcare system within the United States. An outcome of this symposium will be a white paper outlining the comments and suggestions garnered at the symposium.. This will be made available to the public,
Dr. Stephen Ondra, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy delivered the key note address and encouraged thought and discussion in the five areas such as:
1. Examining the overarching goal of health policy. This goal should be to provide a better patient experience for all stakeholders and reduce cost.
2. Recurring issues. In an era of budgetary constraints and an underdeveloped infrastructure to facilitate data sharing, there will be a conflict between competing priorities.
3. Availability of tools. Tools such as the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act and Affordable Care Act can be used to achieve the goals.
4. Alignment of incentives. There is a need to align incentives with the use of technology. This may require providers to focus more on quality of care and not so much on the volume or quantity of care.
5. Health information exchanges. Focus on the advance health information exchange efforts underway within the Office of the National Coordinator. Health care in the United States is not monolithic, need to use a variety of exchange mechanisms and allow each type of provider to choose what makes the most sense for their business model and their patients.
The following sessions were led by subject matter experts who engaged the participants in facilitated discussions in three areas about the future of health information technology (HIT) and its impact on 1) the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, 2) the Affordable Care Act, and 3) the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report on HIT. The discussions topics included what impact will interoperability and data sharing have on healthcare systems, providers, and purchasers, and patient advocacy groups; how will interoperability and data sharing support the stages of meaningful use; exploratory assessment of the PCAST recommendations–Getting to better data liquidity, what can we build on; and what would be the best place to test technologies within the US Department of Defense and US Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
“What was so exciting and productive about this event was seeing our nation’s thought leaders in healthcare – from policy makers to advocacy groups – agree that we can use new tools like the semantic web to improve our communication, our thoroughness and our decision-making in healthcare, to make it safer, better and less expensive, and to empower patients and give them hope and confidence,” said Dr. S. Ward Casscells, John Edward Tyson Distinguished Professor in Cardiology at UT Health Science Center.
The audience was comprised of thought leaders from the White House Office of Science and Information Technology Policy; the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology; U.S. Department of Defense; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; representation from state government; patient advocacy groups; health care systems, providers, and purchasers; and many others.
The symposium provided an opportunity for thought leaders representing various aspects of the health care community to engage in meaningful discussions about improving the experience of the patient and the developing a connected learning healthcare system.
“The audience was very engaged in the discussion and there will be a whitepaper summarizing the conference. A great meeting. Thanks to Drs. Hamilton and Casscells for organizing it” said Dr. John Halamka, Title and Organization.