Obama has held very strong on his commitment of $10 billion a year for 5 years in health care. Obama’s set the audacious goal of full digital health records by 2014. The question is if it’s even possible to invest that much money in health care IT in such a short period and will we be able to reach the goal of full EHR by 2014.
A recent CNN Money article pointed out some important problems with investing so much in health care IT. The biggest of these is finding enough qualified IT professionals that can navigate the complex health care IT systems. There really is a lack of qualified health care IT professionals. Some jobs I’ve seen listed for EMR professionals have gone unfilled for months just because they couldn’t find qualified candidates.
Many reports are also suggesting hundreds of thousands of jobs will be created by this investment in health care IT. This of course would be true if you had enough people to fill those jobs. It’s hard enough for an IT professional to move into health care IT. It will take a lot more training for a blue collar worker to try and implement an electronic medical record.
Certainly it’s not impossible for someone to learn from scratch. I know, because I did it myself. However, it is literally like learning to talk a different language. It takes a lot of work and training and a unique person who can balance the IT needs, the health care requirements, with the business requirements.
I also think that it’s sad to say that $50 billion might be enough to achieve the goal of interoperable EHR by 2014. A look at a small Massachusetts Example gives a good measure of what it will actually cost:
Massachusetts has developed a plan to fully computerize records at its 14,000 physicians’ offices by 2012 and its 63 hospitals by 2014. After a pilot program, the state legislature estimates it will cost about $340 million to build the statewide computer system, with a cost of about $2 million per hospital.
“[Obama's] timeframe is very ambitious, but there is a need to be able to track data on patients and talk across providers and health care systems,” said Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, Secretary of Health and Human Services for Massachusetts. “The program will allow for greater patient safety.”
Despite being less than what might be needed, it certainly would give it a good start that could build into the future.
I’m still planning on writing a few words about whether I think the investment is worthwhile or not. However, I think it’s important to have as much of an understanding as possible at the goals Obama has proposed for investment in IT for health care.