Chopra touts administration's innovation agenda for health care

The federal chief technology officer argued that President Barack Obama's innovation agenda and health care reform will lead to significant technology innovation in the near future.

Aneesh Chopra, the federal chief technology officer, said he believes the Obama administration's innovation agenda coupled with health care reform legislation that became law in 2010 paves the way for some remarkable changes in health care technology over the next few years.

Speaking June 2 at an event hosted by Bisnow and sponsored by Accenture, Chopra said the government has the power to set the market conditions that can shape the creative power of the private sector.

By “set market conditions,” Chopra said he meant things such as incentive payments to health care providers that can demonstrate “meaningful use” of electronic health record technologies. By making the policy decision that the EHR could be composed of multiple systems working together and not be limited to comprehensive solutions from single vendors, there are “not a half-dozen vendors, but 500” whose products can be useful, he added.


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The Obama administration is using a number of strategies to inspire the private sector to create new technologies and solutions, Chopra said. “We’ve shifted the default setting from top-down change models to the notion of bottom-up change,” he said.

Another opportunity for companies in health care technology comes from the changes in payment structure that the health care reform law will bring as it goes into effect over the next several years, Chopra said.

“Today, [doctors] get paid for volume,” he said. “If you see a patient, you get paid. If you avoid the need to see a physician or go to the hospital, there’s a disincentive for that.”

Under such a structure, technology to aid physician scheduling and billing finds a robust market, he said. “The maturity of the IT market for products that actually help you treat patients better is weak.”

But under the new approach on the horizon, volume will be less important while quality of care and avoiding physician visits when a phone call or secure e-mail will suffice will become more prominent measures, Chopra said.

However, Alan Merten, president of George Mason University and another member of the panel discussion, took issue with Chopra’s rosy outlook.

“I can’t be optimistic about what you’re saying,” Merten said. “If you look at all the places technology has made a difference, health is far behind. After all these years of screwing up – that’s the technical term – why are you going to do it right now?”

Chopra contended that the bottom-up approach, drawing on the creativity and insight of thousands of technology professionals and other innovators, would be more likely to lead to real advances than the top-down models of the past.

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