On December 6th, 5 US Companies (Walmart, Intel, BP America, Applied Materials, and Pitney Bowes) announced a plan to provide digital health records to their employees, dependents, and retirees. Omnimedix, a non profit firm based in Oregon, will build and run the new system. The sponsoring employers will chip in $1.5 million apiece to construct a data warehouse to store and update the e-records. The stated goal is to cut costs by having consumers coordinate their own health care among doctors and hospitals. Independent studies suggest that employers with an established Dossia System could save about 7% in healthcare costs.
Intel and Walmart had been having separate discussions with the CDC, and the agency suggested that they combine their efforts to press for digital health records. Craig Barrett, Intel's Chair, and Linda Dillman, the leader of Walmart's health care initiative, would appear to be the major spokespersons for the initiative.
At this reading, neither the AHA nor the AMA have specifically endorsed the initiative. Support has come from the Federal government, The American Academy of Family Physicians, and the National Association of Manufacturers.
a. This initiative, together with Googles' and Intuit's announced intentions to enter the e Health market, suggest that the private sector is ready to play a major role in the digital transformation of health care.
b. The sponsoring companies could benefit on the revenue side as well. For example, Intel sells chips that power PC's and giant file servers.
c. Apparently, key employers believe the health industry isn't moving quickly enough to digitize health records. Intel's Barrett claimed the industry is incapable of modifying itself.
d. I doubt this initiative will have the same impact as Walmart's RFID requirement for it's vendors. The only comparable force facing the health care industry is the US government, and the political will to spur system change is lacking.
e. The jury is out as to whether employers and insurers will use the information to deny employment or insurance coverage.
f. Will the patient/consumer turn out to be the best integrator of health information? Perhaps over the long term, but in the short term?