The deployment of mobile technology in the delivery of health care is under way, with an estimated 30 percent of health care providers in the United States already working with tablets, and another 50 percent of providers making tablet decisions in the next year, according to AT&T research. At the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University, incoming students are now provided with an iPad.
What’s still missing from the equation is the completed information highway – the health IT infrastructure of networked, cloud-based data marts of secure, patient clinical information – that is currently under construction.
The adoption of electronic health records and the development of information exchanges that undergird the new health IT infrastructure is being financed in large part under the federal health care reform law. When the federal money runs out in 2013, it’s unclear how the exchanges will develop new revenue streams to make the operations sustainable.
In Rhode Island, the health-information-exchange effort, branded as currentcare, has been slow going, with only 200,000 patients – 20 percent – enrolled to date and, at the ongoing rate of about 8,000 a month, the numbers won’t reach 300,000 until 2013, according to Laura Adams, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Quality Institute.
Adams attributes a large part of the slow response to date to the opt-in enrollment system chosen by Rhode Island to ensure a patient’s privacy. “I think our rate is steadily increasing,” she said, indicating that a new sign-up form, embedded in a provider’s computer, was going “like gangbusters.”
The Quality Institute, a nonprofit organization with more than 50 full-time employees and numerous consultants, is responsible for administering federal funds to construct the state’s health-information exchange and promote adoption of electronic health records by physicians and providers. The institute’s board of directors reads like a who’s who of Rhode Island health care, with numerous hospital and health insurer CEOs, as well as the president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce and the Rhode Island health insurance commissioner.
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