The Future of Health IT

On a scale of 1 to 10, America's health care system is a generous 3, a fellow at the National Academy of Public Administration said this week, citing wasted resources and inappropriate treatments.

Gary Christopherson, along with Captain Michael Weiner, the chief medical information office at the interagency program office of Defense and the Veterans Affairs Department, hashed out the state of information technology and the health industry Wednesday at a leadership briefing held by Government Executive.

While Christopherson described many problems with the current system, he sees major scale change in the future and called for a personal health system, which could be accessed from multiple locations and would allow patients to manage their own health.

"Health IT is not an end, it's a means," he said.

While the Obama Administration's electronic health records program offers incentives for doctors and hospitals using e-records, change is slow. Only 17 percent of the nation uses electronic records, Weiner said, comparing this statistic with the Defense's 100 percent use of electronic records. The health IT space, however, is at an exciting tipping point, he said.

Defense and VA, with roughly 150,000 outpatients a day, have built up an extensive data repository which allowed the two agencies to help the Food and Drug administration research a potential link between a diabetes medication and heart disease.

With the influx of electronic data come privacy concerns. While Defense has the luxury of an exceptionally secure network, the average citizen still can't write a quick email to their doctors.

CyberKaiser helps innovate in that area -- the program allows Kaiser Permanente members to use a secure electronic system to message their doctors.

"We just need to understand the proper health IT goals," Christopherson said. "It's about people."