Building a Smarter Planet. A Smarter Planet Blog.

Building a Smarter Planet. A Smarter Planet Blog.

Exploring Options to Fund Health Care Reform: The Role of Health IT

Today, I had the opportunity to join the Alliance for Health Reform for their briefing entitled “Scoring Savings: How Can Quality Improvement Reduce Health Care Costs?” along with panelists Len Nichols, Director of the Health Policy Program at the New America Foundation; Simon Stevens, Executive Vice President of the UnitedHealth Group and Chairman of the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform and Modernization; and Gail Wilensky, Senior Fellow at Project Hope.

The panel was moderated by Ed Howard, who has led the Alliance–a Washington tradition–for many years. Since 1991, the Alliance for Health Reform has served as a source of unbiased information to help policymakers, their staff, journalists and advocates understand the rapidly changing environment, hosting more than 200 forums in Washington and around the nation.

Panelists offered their insights regarding the current policy dialogue on finding savings and slowing the growth curve in health care. I shared several of the strategies that IBM–which provides healthcare for more than 450,000 employees, retirees and dependents–has utilized to both improve health and health care while also reducing costs. Key strategies outlined in my presentation included the following:

  1. Providing incentives to individuals to help them make healthy choices, including participating in a physical activity or a nutrition program, or executing on a preventive care plan.
  2. Focusing on prevention and value in medical care, including offering free coverage for preventive care, no deductible for primary care, and considerable support for those with chronic conditions.
  3. Providing a number of personal electronic management tools to help individuals navigate their health and health care.
  4. Promoting quality with health plans with which we do business and practicing good purchasing policy.

Many of the strategies outlined above, which are often adopted by private employers, can also help the federal government reduce its own health care costs, contributing to the costs of covering the uninsured. Click here for a copy of the full presentation shared during the Alliance for Health Reform briefing.

Many of the strategies contemplated for health care reform–including much of what’s outlined above–cannot happen effectively without a strong foundation of information which can only be enabled by information technology. A platform which enables connectivity and the exchange of health information–while effectively managing patient privacy–among patients, providers, and those responsible for population health is crucial for achieving much-needed benefits in the quality, safety and efficiency of our health care system. Such an informational foundation can not only support health care delivery–getting the right information to the right place at the right time, but also critical population health goals, including improving performance, detecting and responding to both medical product safety and public health threats, and learning more about what works and doesn’t work in health care.