In today's economic environment, electronic health records (EHR's) offer the biggest opportunities and the biggest risks in healthcare reform, Michael Tripathi told participants at the Schroeder Center for Healthcare Policy's 2008 Healthcare Symposium at the College of William and Mary. Tripathi and a panel of healthcare policy makers discussed reform options for Virginia's healthcare system at the Sept. 18 event.
While efforts to cut healthcare costs are often met with concerns over reduced quality in care, some policy makers, like Tripathi, believe the implementation of EHR's is the solution on the horizon that could reduce costs and increase quality of care.
"The states that are making the most progress are the ones with some type of formalized, coordinated programs," he said.
States like Massachusetts, Tripathi noted. The eHealth Collaborative was initiated by physician groups in the state in 2004 to bring together major health care stakeholders in the state for the purpose of establishing an electronic health record system that would enhance the quality, efficiency and safety of its healthcare.
Panelists, including Dr. Charles Frazier, vice president for strategic initiatives for Riverside Health System; Claudia Williams, director of health policy and public affairs for the Markle Foundation and Michael Demand, director of outcomes and analytics for Pfizer Health Solutions, noted that perhaps the biggest role for the state of Virginia in implementing a successful statewide EHR system would be getting the individual healthcare system stakeholders to the table and to agree to share data collected by the medical offices in their systems.
"In a way, Virginia is way ahead. We probably have many more doctors who have the full electronic medical record already in their offices," said Schroeder Center Director Louis R. Rossiter. The question now, he added, is how we get them all to "play nice in the sand lot."
Despite the challenges to full implementation, Tripathi encouraged perseverance.
"States can't wait for the federal government to solve this problem," he said.
The Schroeder Center, located in the College of William and Mary's Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy, is dedicated to provide a full range of research, education and service to improve the financing and delivery of medical services. Founded in 2003, the Center is celebrating its fifth year. The healthcare symposium is an annual event.