Towards a National Healthcare Information Infrastructure
Many countries around the world have placed an increased focus on the need to modernize their healthcare information infrastructure. This is particularly challenging in the United States. The U.S. healthcare industry is by far the largest in the world in both absolute dollars and in percentage of GDP (>$1.7T – 15% of GDP). It is also quite fragmented and complex. This complexity, coupled with an antiquated infrastructure for the collection of and access to medical data, leads to enormous inefficiencies and sources of error. Driven by consumer, regulatory, and governmental pressure, there is a growing consensus that the time has come to modernize the US Healthcare Information Infrastructure (HII). A modern HII will provide care givers with better and timelier access to data. The launch of a National Health Infrastructure Initiative (NHII) in the US in May 2004 – with the goal of providing an electronic health record for every American within the next decade- will eventually transform the healthcare industry in general...just as I/T has transformed other industries in the past. While such transformation may be disruptive in the short term, it will in the future significantly improve the quality, efficiency, and successful delivery of healthcare while decreasing costs to patients and payers and improving the overall experiences of consumers and providers. The key to this successful outcome will be based on the way we apply I/T to healthcare data and to the services delivered through that I/T. This must be accomplished in a way that protects individuals, allows competition, but gives caregivers reliable and efficient access to the data required to treat patients and to improve the practice of medical science.