Long before Obamacare was a buzzword, and before the never-ending debate over the rising cost of health care began, there was a concept that all Americans deserve access to basic goods and services.
The concept of public utilities can be traced back the late 1800’s when Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb. A decade later, dozens of companies were vying to produce and sell electricity.
By the turn of the 20th century, power companies began consolidating and Americans grew concerned about the effects of monopolization. In order to protect the public’s best interest, state and federal governments began regulating gas and electric companies. Today, electricity, gas, water, telephones, and now, even the Internet, are considered public utilities.
The Affordable Care Act attempted to treat health care like a public good, but the law has done little to address the issues of price, quality, competition, and connectivity – areas which are often regulated in the utility world. Today, I’d like to focus on the issue of connectivity, and why it’s so important in health care.
I learned a long time ago while managing a large cardiology practice that interoperability is key. My practice owned an electrocardiogram (EKG), a nuclear imaging machine, and an echo imaging system. All of these systems needed to “talk” to one another in order to paint a complete picture of our patients’ heart functions.
One of the biggest challenges in today’s health care system is that physicians don’t always have access to their patient’s complete medical history. They often rely on patients to tell them what prescriptions they’re taking, what specialists they’ve seen, and what tests have been performed. But what happens when the patient forgets? That physician is suddenly left to make a decision based on assumptions that may or may not be true.
One of the most promising new ideas to promote health care interoperability was announced in the Capital Region’s proposal for the Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI). The 235-page document –prepared by the Capital Region Economic Development Council – details plans for a “Population Health Technology Cluster,” which would essentially transform the region into a health care data hub. The proposal has buy-in from some of the area’s biggest health care stakeholders, including Albany Medical Center, St. Peter’s Health Partners, Community Care Physicians, CapitalCare Physicians, CDPHP, MVP, and last but not least, technology heavyweight, IBM.
Seven regions throughout upstate New York are competing for the $1.5 billion in state economic development money being made available through the URI. If the Capital Region wins, a portion of that funding would be used to create a unique public-private partnership that will “share, aggregate, analyze, and mobilize data to enable smarter healthcare solutions.”
As business leaders in the Capital Region, we often ask ourselves, “What’s the next big thing the region needs to stay relevant?” I would argue the Population Health Technology Cluster is just what the doctors ordered. I applaud Governor Andrew Cuomo for having the vision to launch the URI, and look forward to laying the so-called telephone lines the health care industry so badly needs to start talking.