The U.S. "leads the world in medical technology," but "the medical establishment has yet to complete the jump to the Internet Age," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt writes in an opinion piece in the San Jose Mercury News.
The lack of physicians adopting health IT is "not just inefficient or inconvenient; it's also dangerous," Leavitt writes.
Leavitt touted a recently announced Medicare pilot program "to encourage 1,200 small- to mid-size physician practices to implement new technology to better serve their estimated 3.6 million patients."
"Right away these doctors will start to see larger Medicare payments for the services they provide, and incentives are built in to reward the most aggressive adopters of technology to improve the care they deliver," Leavitt writes. He adds, "When the federal government puts its money where its priorities are, history shows that the private sector often follows suit."
In addition to "expanding adoption of electronic health records, this effort will also help us learn how their application can make the entire system more efficient," and "allow us to get better at paying doctors based on how well they treat their patients, not just on how many patients they treat," Leavitt writes.
Leavitt notes that he expects this year "to recognize the first batch of standards that will lay the foundation for medical records that are 'interoperable.'" He concludes, "Starting now, Medicare is looking for 1,200 physician practice pioneers who will help us move the health care system into the 21st century" (Leavitt, San Jose Mercury News, 11/25).