The recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was the first major federal injection of long-term capital ($48B+ over five years) into developing health IT infrastructure that is likely to have a real impact on patient outcomes. Physicians are offered real (though inadequate) incentives to adopt electronic health records and states are provided a true capital foundation upon which the technologies needed to expand coverage and value penetration. The stimulus funds are to be administered primarily by the newly formed Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). However, it seems unlikely that this communications technology will be quickly adopted by providers and physicians, both of whom still lack any meaningful incentive to change.
I believe strongly that the marketplace for health insurance cannot experience fundamental reform until the broader health care industry has adopted the most basic value-added information technologies into the care delivery cycle and the true impact of this information flow on the quality of care can be quantified. To attempt radical health reform before this has been accomplished would be like prescribing treatment for a disease before assessing the patient's symptoms and issuing a diagnosis.
President Obama has a mandate to make sweeping changes to the way America is governed, this cannot be denied, and he appears to be intently focused on doing just that during the first two year of his presidency. It would be unfortunate if his party's legislative supramajority and his own impatience for gradual reform lead him to lose touch with realities of his capabilities as a mere mortal. Don't forget Mr President, "All glory is fleeting".
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