Industry analysts long have acknowledged that the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s healthcare spending plan – the creation of an electronic medical health record system – stands to benefit pure-play IT healthcare providers most of all.
The federal government’s $787 billion economic stimulus package includes $19 billion for the so-called “e-medical record” effort and one firm, Forrester Research (News - Alert), expects about $14 billion of that to become available to technology vendors through purchases of technology gear and related services.
Much of the money will come in the form of grants the federal government makes to healthcare providers, analysts say.
For one expert interviewed recently by TMCnet, the administration’s focus on leveraging technology to improve healthcare also signals a larger philosophical shift that could include federal funding for services such as enhanced 911 – or “E911,” which uses location-based services to pinpoint the whereabouts of distressed parties trying to reach emergency responders.
According to Craig Settles, president and founder of Oakland-based Successful.com, the government’s effort – to make individual medical records more accessible by converting them to an electronic form – naturally dovetails with E911, since both involve “moving bits of data around” to improve healthcare.
“I think this is clear: It is understood by this administration that much of healthcare boils down to being able to get data and move it around, being able to respond to useful data, and quickly,” Settles, who focuses on how organizations and municipalities can leverage broadband technology, told TMCnet. “The most fundamental piece of data is a patient’s medical history – what do they have, what procedures have they undergone, what medications are they allergic to, and so on. In a hospital setting, that type of information determines the specifics of treatment and procedures. In an emergency situation, improving response is a critical factor, and that’s what E911 addresses so well.”
E911 solutions providers seem to agree.
Bill Svien, the executive vice president of Everett, Wash.-based 911 ETC, said that with enterprises rapidly deploying IP-based telecommunication in the healthcare industry, “those bits of life-saving personal data could very well be transmitted directly to the 911 dispatch and off to the first responders.”
For Settles, public safety has come to the forefront, in particular, as more and more communities eye their portion of a federally backed plan to deploy broadband networks throughout the United States – another portion of what’s formally called the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.”
“If you’re building a wireless network and you have awareness of E911, you can make a strong case for streamlining overall medical data process,” Settles told TMCnet. “A lot of people don’t realize that these types of efforts may allow them to tap not only the overall economic stimulus package but also things like Homeland Security funds. It’s another grant avenue to help fund a project.”
It’s important, Settles said, to look at the big picture when pursuing public funds for projects such as broadband networks – and the same goes for ways that federal money can be used to leverage technology and improve healthcare.
“You can look ahead five years and make a business case for today that says, ‘We want to facilitate the digitizing of medical records,’ ” he said. “That has to do with the core medical treatment. Then you can look at public safety and emergency response and an overall emergency response network and say, ‘OK, we want to try and build a network that will address our emergency medical issues.’ Someone with vision is going to say, ‘Here’s a place where E911 intersects. Let’s not create healthcare medical records technology in isolation. Let’s consider an E911 solution deployment.’ ”
Of course, Settles is painting in broad strokes, and the picture – from a logistical, cost and even legal standpoint – is very complicated.
As noted by Glen O’Keefe, IT manager at 911 ETC, the ability to receive an individual’s health information on a 911 call brings up a plethora of HIPPA violation questions.
“Would we want to develop the applications strictly for medical facilities only? Or, could we expand to businesses, or educational institutions?” O’Keefe said. “With the future of next-generation 911, the possibilities are endless.”
Questions that immediately spring to mind, O’Keefe said, include: Would it be better to keep E911 simple and to pinpoint the individual for faster service or be able to include medical history when it is not necessarily needed and risk your personal information getting into the hands of individuals that are less likely to be looking after your best interest?
“There is a lot to think about when developing e-medical records in conjunction with E911,” O’Keefe said. “We here at 911 ETC, Inc. strongly believe every second counts when saving a life and if developing the two together will save time and save lives, then it needs to be done. Whether we develop the process or another company develops it, it is about saving lives.”
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Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Michael Dinan