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Schroeder Center Health Policy Symposium - September 18, 2008

Purpose: This meeting is open to everyone, especially health policy makers, health administrators, all types of clinicians, graduate and undergraduate students, and people from the community and region.  The overarching theme of the Schroeder Symposium is state healthcare reform with a specific topic addressed each year.Moderator: Louis F. Rossiter, Director, Schroeder Center for Healthcare Policy

This pre-election symposium will focus on something both candidates endorse -- expanding the use of health information technology, especially electronic medical records and personal health records. Electronic medical records are for physicians and health systems to document and manage the care of patients. Personal health records provide a complete and accurate summary of the health and medical history of an individual by gathering data from many sources and making this information accessible online to anyone who has the necessary electronic credentials to view the information.

Background: States have been and will continue to be regulators, payers and agents for change in healthcare according to the healthcare plans of both candidates for President.  Many states have made significant progress with concrete results through public-private
partnerships for healthcare solutions. Governor Kaine established a Health Information Technology Council (Executive Order 55) in 2007 to gather information and provide advice. Earlier this year Secretary Leavitt, US Department of Health and Human Services met with Governor Kaine to award a national Medicare demonstration project in Virginia that provides incentive payments to physicians for using certified electronic health records to improve the quality of patient care.

As we have seen in Massachusetts, Florida, California and many other states, solving the problem of coverage for the uninsured is a stepwise process. Many experts assume that state healthcare reform will require a foundation of enlightened Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) policies and healthcare market forces to drive change. But with nearly 70 percent of Medicaid spending on the aged and disabled, states cannot afford expanded coverage until they can manage costs for those already covered.

Some place great hope in accelerated adoption of health information technology to empower consumers to manage their healthcare and health, encourage prevention, reduce administrative costs and generally improve care coordination.

2008 Topic

The Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative was formed in 2004 as an initiative of the physician community to bring together the state's major health care stakeholders for the purpose of establishing an electronic health record system that would enhance the quality, efficiency and safety of care in Massachusetts.  The value of electronic health records is widely acknowledged, but the significant capital outlay and time required to implement such a system are frequently cited as significant barriers to adoption.  It has been estimated that universal statewide adoption of electronic health records would cost approximately $500 million in Massachusetts.  The Collaborative is fortunate to have $50 million commitment from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts to fund its demonstration project phase.