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Sunday, October 7, 2007

Zaniya and Health IT: Good News for DSU Grads

Dakota State University can at least find some good news in the Zaniya Project Task Force final report. As reported earlier this summer, the Zaniya folks decided to look beyond their immediate mandate to make health insurance more affordable and look into other aspects of the awkward beast that is the American health care system. Among the results: proposals for action on expanding the use of health information technology. Final report recommendation #9 touts the use of electronic health records, electronic prescription systems, electronic medication management, and standardized electronic claims forms.

Given our state government's love of computers, translation of recommendation #9 into functional and funded legislation this winter should be a breeze. Technofixes look snazzy, and can generate all sorts of economic activity and jobs for DSU's health information management grads.

But don't forget -- in health information technology, we're still playing catch-up with those godless communists in Canada, Germany, Norway, and everywhere else that has universal health care. Again, from these pages back in July:

A 2006 study [Gerard F. Anderson, Ph.D., Bianca K. Frogner, Roger A. Johns, M.D., Uwe E. Reinhardt, Ph.D., "Health Care Spending and Use of Information Technology in OECD Countries," Health Affairs, May/June 2006, summarized by Linda Prager and Deborah Lorber, CommonwealthFund.org, 2006.05.10] notes that the US is already a dozen years behind other countries in using informtion technology, even though in 2003 the US spent two and a half times as much per capita on health care as the median for OECD countries. According to the handy chart at the bottom of Prager and Lorber's summary, even those pesky socialist Canadians outperform us, spending a cool billion to put information technology to work in health care versus the United States' paltry $125 million (the per capita figures are even more embarrassing: $31.85 on health care IT per Canadian versus $0.43 -- that's 43 cents -- on HIT per American). Canada initiated its national HIT program in 1997, as did Norway. The Germans, models of efficiency, beat everyone to the punch, starting their national HIT effort in 1993. Australia got to it in 2000, the Brits in 2002. And the US, leader of the free world, home of all the most cutting-edge technology? We just started last year.

If we're going to catch up with other, more civilized nations in terms of health outcomes and efficiencies, we're going to need more radical thinking than the Zaniya Project was able to muster. Even in the relatively non-controversial area of health IT, the Zaniya folks offer more proposals for further study and incentives than concrete plans for enactment in the 2008 Legislature. Next time we commission a task force, maybe we shouldn't have them meet over the summer. Nobody can concentrate on homework in July.

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