Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Corporations See Opportunities in Health Reform Innovations

Corporate giants – AT&T, GE, Phillips, and Siemens – to name a prominent few, are beginning to stir and pursue opportunities in health reform. They see, better than their Washington counterparts, that health care is decentralizing.

Health reform is progressing from a focus on care given in institutions and doctors’ offices, to concentrating on monitoring of care in the home and at work.

In some circles, this is known as patient-centered care. It is long overdue. Much of this new care is Internet-based, and the prevailing corporate thought is that the Internet will lift all clinical boats.

This is inevitable in American health care. The U.S., after all, leads the world in Internet innovation and in communication technologies. This is what we are good at. This is where the action is – 70% of Americans now have Internet access. This is where Americans go first for health information, followed closely by confirmation by doctors. These are the technologies most likely to bridge gaps between patients and doctors.

AT&T is a leader of where we are headed. Why? Because it connects 97% of Americans through communication technologies. It is taking the innovation lead through its telehealth capacities and initiatives.

AT&T Innovations and Initiatives

These innovations and initiatives include.

• Teleconferencing, whereby doctors can consult with distant patients, thereby reducing the needs for expensive and inconvenience office visits and making care available to remote patients.

• Electronic records, whereby medical information can be entered and transmitted through telecommunications to compile a complete medical record to be shared between patients and doctors.

• Electronic collaboration between doctors, whereby doctors in different locations can work off the same information, thereby reducing duplication, speeding the care process, and reducing drug interactions.

• Sensors that allow direct readings of temperature, blood pressure, pulse, blood oxygen, weight, and other health care measurements, self-monitoring by those with chronic disease, baseline measures for the healthy, when to take medications, and sleep and movement patterns.

These telecommunications advances will not be easy. The technologies are there. The payment mechanisms and regulatory barriers for doctors and other health professionals and institutions are not. Overcoming these barriers will take time.
Information technologies may be the Great Enablers, but they are not the Holy Grail. They do not blossom in a vacuum.

It will take work, time, education, training, and proof of benefit for politicians, technocrats, regulators and physicians to realize the real action and the real innovations will take place at the periphery – at home and at work and in patients’ minds – not at the center of Washington and the health care establishment circles.

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