As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act), the Obama Administration recently rolled out an ambitious five-year plan for achieving widespread adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records. A recent progress report on electronic health records in U.S. hospitals finding that only 2% of hospitals report currently having electronic health records that would allow them to meet the federal government’s “meaningful use” criteria signals that the transition could be a much heavier lift than anticipated.
As Physician-in-Charge of the Henry Ford Medical Center, I know all too well that we are faced with an increased need to practice medicine differently using technology and other resources like the “Advanced Medical Home”, “Group Visits” or “Shared Medical Appointments,” for common conditions. Change is needed due to the increased demand brought on by the combination of a more diverse and growing population and 32 million uninsured becoming insured coupled with the decreased supply of physicians in primary care. We must increase our capability to care for the increased needs of all communities, through collaborations, partnerships, utilization of technology and innovation.
Innovative telemedicine applications will improve the well-being of Americans by shortening hospital stays, decreasing re-admissions, providing electronic prescriptions (checking for drug-to-drug interactions of prescription/over-the-counter products, allergies, generic and insurance-covered medication alternatives, and more), allowing healthcare teams to easily share patient data like complex digital imaging, scans and X-rays with colleagues in clinics, offices, and hospitals across the country, and providing a number of other life improving applications that will enable medical professionals to work smarter.
The Federal Communications Commission has estimated that it will cost $350 billion in upgrades and expansion to our broadband infrastructure in order to extend broadband access to all Americans – an expansion that is necessary if we are to build out a ubiquitous Internet system that will enable these applications and create opportunity across the country. So far, no one has argued with President Obama’s goal of universal access. Yet, there are unnecessary policy debates currently underway that are standing in the way of meaningful progress. Specifically, debate over regulating the Internet that is currently discouraging critical private investment.
The government has set aside money to invest in critical areas such as this through the Recovery Act, but private investment is essential – and the Net Neutrality and Title II debates currently taking place in Washington, D.C. are creating uncertainty throughout the country that hinder the private investment that would likely spur the economic growth that we desperately need. As a result, jobs and innovation – things that we value and seek, continue to suffer. We need to put these frivolous debates aside once and for all.
A healthy America is increasingly a connected America and therefore, we cannot be deterred by the big tasks ahead. We can’t lose focus on President Obama’s goal of delivering broadband access to every American because of beltway politics – especially when universal access holds so much promise for the future of this great nation.
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