Technology is ready, healthcare has to use it, says Intel chairman

Healthcare IT News - July 17, 2007
Bernie Monegain


WASHINGTON – The healthcare industry is in denial about the technology it needs to employ to achieve reform, Intel Chairman Craig Barrett told the audience at a chronic care summit here today.

“The technology is there to do all the things the panelists were talking about today,” he concluded. “I have seen every other industry in the world make this transition, save this industry.”

Barrett, who hosted the summit Chronic Care at the Crossroads: Exploring Solutions for Chronic Care Management, called on the business community to demand a better healthcare system.

“The business community has absolutely been AWOL – until recently – in this discussion,” said Barrett, a board member of the American Health Information Community, an advisory panel to the Department of Health and Human Services.

He suggested that employers should shop for healthcare as consumers do for credit cards, automobiles and clothing.

“Ultimately, what employers have to do is take – in our case five to six million – and say ‘if you don't have electronic medical records, we’ll take our money elsewhere.’”

Barrett also suggested that everyone involved in the healthcare debate stop talking about who pays. “We all pay in the long run,” he said.

Chronic disease accounts for 80 cents for every dollar we pay for healthcare in this country, said moderator Susan Dentzer, healthcare correspondent with the NewHour with Jim Lehrer.

The summit included speakers from various parts of the industry – physicians, insurers, family caregivers and researchers. Among them was Mark McClellan, MD, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid, who painted a dismal picture of healthcare today.

“We don't have a healthcare system, really,” McClellan said. “We have a sick care system.”

The healthcare system is designed to focus on acute care, when it should be focused on preventive care and wellness, McClellan and other speakers concurred.

“About 45 percent of Americans have a chronic illness,” McClellan said. “If we were doing something more about this, it wouldn’t be such a problem. The numbers are very discouraging right now. According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control) most of diabetes or heart disease in this country could be prevented.  Not only are we not doing a good job with prevention, we're doing a bad job treating the complications.”

Michael O’Dell, MD, a Mississippi physician and member of the American Academy of Family Physicians Commission on Quality, said that much money is wasted today because of the lack of coordination of care.

“The ability to coordinate healthcare is critical,” said O’Dell, “The lack of ability to exchange information is enormously costly.”

“I think a lot of us are trying to change,” O’Dell said. “The problem we get into is I’ve got to see 24 patients (a day) … before I get any money for my family.”

Much of the talk at the summit centered on pay for performance, healthcare information technology and reform in how to pay for healthcare.

“The healthcare industry really should be the health information industry, and we haven’t moved in that direction fast enough,” said Barrett. “The people that are paying the bills need to demand that the changes take place faster in this industry.”