eHealth innovator discusses health system reform, public policy

President and CEO of Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative Micky Tripathi lectured on campus yesterday about healthcare reform for the Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy 2008 Schroeder Center Health Policy Symposium.

“The last time you were sick or needed medical attention, how quickly did you get an appointment to see a doctor?” he asked the audience of health policy makers, health administrators, clinicians and students.

“People are concerned about medical cost almost to where it’s at panic level,” he said.

In addition to rising costs, Tripathi said disorganization, privacy dilemmas, unresponsiveness of providers and lack of coverage for the uninsured were all problems with the current system.

Tripathi presented a diagram showing the complex network of hospitals, laboratories, pharmacies, primary care providers, specialty physicians, and ambulatory centers.

Because of this, he said change to the system is needed.

“States can’t wait for the federal government to solve its problems,” he said. “Individual programs and physicians must adopt an electronic health record system … to improve health quality, cost and accessibility.”

Tripathy said an online health record system would offer more accessibility to patients and cut through a significant amount of red tape. After logging on, a patient would have access to information such as personal conditions, allergies, medications, procedures, appointments, laboratory results and immunizations. In addition to this information, a patient could also order prescription refills or contact a primary care provider.

After Tripathi’s presentation, a panel of physicians responded with their opinions, suggestions and additional concerns. The panel consisted of Charles Frazier M.D. of the Riverside Health System, Michael Demand Ph.D. from Pfizer Health Solutions and Markle Foundation Director of Health Policy and Public Affairs Claudia Williams.

Several panelists noted the complexity of an online health system: the foundation of such a network is based on the connectedness of its users.

“The internet really hasn’t changed much of health care like it has other aspects of our lives,” Williams said.
She compared the electronic health care system to more prominent online institutions such as Facebook, Craigslist and e-mail.

“The biggest problem with the system is privacy and security,” Tripathy said.

Many states hold a mass consent law that prevents the sharing of information between medical institutions without the explicit consent of the patient.

Tripathi argued, however, that with control in the hands of the consumer the system will eventually begin to support itself.

“We have to turn permission into demand. Instead of us begging them to transfer information, the patient must be in control and demand it,” he said. “Thus, this system is one that both physicians and patients must have a lot of trust in.”


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