Picture this | Tough road to health IT

Members of a panel at Washington Technology's Health IT Solutions Series brainstormed on ways to encourage greater use of information technology for health care. From left to right: Alan Boucher, of Intel Corp.; Dr. Michael Cowan, of BearingPoint Inc.; Dr. Jack Varga, of EDS Corp.; and Dr. Robert Wah, of Computer Sciences Corp.

Photos by Stan Barouh

The promise of health information technology is great, but the barriers are many. The cost for physicians and other health care providers is at the top of the list, according to a panel of experts at Washington Technology's Health IT Solutions Series Sept. 20.

Doctors do not see enough of a return on investment to put in the systems to create, maintain and share electronic health records, said a panel of chief medical officers and health directors from BearingPoint Inc., Computer Sciences Corp., EDS Corp. and Intel Corp.

One way to push e-health records forward is for the government to tie payments to electronic records. If you don't have e-records, you don't get paid, said Dr. Kevin Stephens, director of the New Orleans Health Department, during his keynote address.

Technology is definitely not the challenge, said Dr. Robert Wah, chief medical officer at CSC. It is cultural issues and workflow in doctor's offices, and it is about public policy, he said.

In many cases, the challenge is convincing doctors that e-records are a good idea, but the cost and complexity of implementing systems is a deterrent, said Dr. Michael Cowan, BearingPoint's chief medical officer.

"If you want someone to do something, you have to at least fool them that it is in their best interest to do it," he said.

The best way to promote health IT is to show how it is a tool to improve patient care, said Dr. Jack Varga, medical director at EDS' Electronic Health Records Center of Excellence.

"If you do the right things in terms of quality, costs will come down," he said.
One promising trend is that patients are trying to control their health records. Because of that, other consumer-oriented companies, such as Microsoft Corp., Google and the banking industry, are becoming interested, said Alan Boucher, director of health care architecture at Intel.

Above: Dr. Kevin Stephens of the New Orleans Health Department was the keynote speaker. Top right: Melissa Zelinger, left, and Aubrey Wineholt. Right: Dr. Robert Wah, right, and Dr. Jack Varga.

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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