A Critical Time for Health Care Reform and Health IT

Posted by Frank Torres 
Director, Consumer Affairs

Washington, D.C. is always a busy place before Congress breaks for its summer recess.   But even for the nation’s capital, the amount of activity currently happening around health care is extraordinary.

President Obama is expected to discuss health care in a press conference Wednesday night.   Health reform legislation is moving forward in the House and Senate.   And the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Health Information Technology Policy Committee is meeting to decide which technologies will qualify for approximately $20 billion in stimulus funding to spur adoption of technology by health providers (what’s being called “meaningful use”) and establish certification procedures for technologies that meet the “meaningful use” standard.  


Against this backdrop, leading think-tanks – the Markle Foundation, the Center for American Progress(CAP), and the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at Brookings – held a forum July 15 to frame their vision for information-driven health care.  Their primary theme:  Efforts to boost health IT must be aligned with the broader health reform effort underway to achieve the goals of President Obama and Congress to expand coverage, improve outcomes and control costs.  At Microsoft, we couldn’t agree more.

Investments in technology can only improve care if health reform is done right.  The current legislative efforts and HHS’ work to define “meaningful use” will determine how health IT can improve health care delivery and empower patients with information and tools to improve their lives. Creating the right incentives for effective use of health IT can improve prevention, wellness, chronic care management and coordination of care between your medical providers.

The right reforms can also get patients and their families more engaged in their health care.  From the beginning, Microsoft’s vision for technology in health care has been to give patients tools that put them at the center of their care, and empower them to work as a team with their health care providers.

For the stimulus funds to drive adoption of health IT, the role of “certification” must be carefully designed. An overly prescriptive certification regime could stifle innovation and prevent technological advances from getting into the hands of medical providers and their patients. Microsoft believes technologies should be evaluated on their ability to provide security, privacy, and interoperability while also delivering on “meaningful use.”

There will be much more activity over the next weeks and months on health care reform, and Microsoft will continue to engage with the administration, Congress, other stakeholders, including groups like Markle, CAP and Brookings.  Health care reform has the potential to lead to enormous positive changes for patients, employers and our economy, and we are excited to be part of the effort to improve the quality of health in the U.S.

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