Health Care: National Strategy Needed to Accelerate the Implementation of Information Technology Page: 2 of 16
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Accountability- Integrity- Reliability
Highlights of GAO-04-947T, testimony
before the Subcommittee on Technology,
Information Policy, Intergovernmental
Relations and the Census, Committee on
Government Reform, House of
Why GAO Did This Study
Health care is an information-
intensive industry that remains
highly fragmented and inefficient.
Hence, the uses of information
technology (IT)-in delivering
clinical care, performing
administrative functions, and
supporting the public health
infrastructure-have the potential
to yield both cost savings and
improvements in the care itself.
In 2003, GAO reported on benefits
to health care that could result
from using IT-both cost savings
and measurable improvements in
the delivery and quality of care.
GAO also reported on federal
agencies' existing and planned
information systems intended to
support our nation's preparedness
for and ability to respond to public
health emergencies and the status
of health care standards setting
The subcommittee has asked GAO
to summarize our work on reported
benefits of the use of IT for health
care delivery and on IT initiatives
supporting public health
preparedness and response.
To view the full product, including the scope
and methodology, click on the link above.
For more information, contact David A.
Powner at 202-512-9286 or
pownerd @ gao.gov.
National Strategy Needed to Accelerate
the Implementation of Information
What GAO Found
The use of IT can yield benefits in clinical care and associated administrative
functions as well as in public health. Health care organizations reported that
electronic medical records (EMR) improved the delivery of care because,
among other reasons, more complete medical documentation was available
to support the provider's diagnosis. In addition, EMRs could greatly facilitate
the reporting of public health information associated with the early
detection of and response to disease outbreaks. One hospital replaced
outpatients' paper medical charts with EMRs, realizing about $8.6 million in
annual savings. This hospital also established electronic access to laboratory
results and reports, replacing its manual process for handling medical
records and saving another $2.8 million a year. In addition, the lessons
learned that were reported to us by health care organizations that have
successfully implemented solutions could be used by other organizations to
accelerate the adoption of health IT. These lessons recognize the
importance of reengineering business processes, gaining users' acceptance
of IT, providing adequate training, and making systems secure.
Regarding public health, federal agencies identified 72 existing and planned
information systems-34 surveillance systems, 18 supporting technologies,
10 communications systems, and 10 detection systems. For example, the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently implementing its
Public Health Information Network comprised of a number of disease
surveillance and communications systems, including the Health Alert
Network. This network is an early warning and response system that is
intended to facilitate communication among federal, state, and local
agencies during public health emergencies. GAO also reported that
identification and implementation of health care data, communications, and
security standards-which are necessary to support compatibility and
interoperability of agencies' various IT systems-remained incomplete
across the health care sector. To address the challenges of coordinating the
many IT initiatives and implementing a consistent set of standards, GAO
recommended last year that the Secretary of Health and Human Services
develop a strategy for public health preparedness and response, to include
setting priorities for IT initiatives and establishing mechanisms to monitor
the implementation of standards throughout the health care industry. Since
that time, progress has been made in identifying standards. The Office of
Management and Budget's e-government initiative, the Consolidated Health
Informatics initiative, has identified a number of standards to be applied to
new federal development efforts and modifications of existing systems. This
initiative is intended to promote the interoperability of information systems.
However, implementing these standards across the federal government is
still a work in progress. Until these standards are implemented, information-
sharing challenges will remain. In April of this year, Executive Order 13335
established a National Health IT Coordinator and called for a strategic plan
to guide the nationwide implementation of interoperable health IT. As this
plan moves forward, it will be essential to have continued leadership, clear
direction. measurable goals. and mechanisms to monitor progress.
United States General Accounting Office
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Health Care: National Strategy Needed to Accelerate the Implementation of Information Technology, text, July 14, 2004; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc293260/m1/2/: accessed November 13, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.