WASHINGTON, DC—The Markle Foundation today launched an ambitious public-private initiative designed to improve patient care by promoting the adoption of an initial set of standards for electronic medical information, in a way that protects patient privacy. Markle Connecting for Health…A Public-Private Collaborative, announced at the Emerging Technologies & Healthcare Innovations Congress in Washington D.C., will bring together government, industry, healthcare leaders and consumer advocates in an action-oriented nine-month effort. Establishing consensus on a core set of health care data standards has the potential to improve quality, facilitate timely research, and ultimately enable patients to become full participants in their care.
The Markle Foundation will convene the Collaborative, which will include practicing clinicians; hospitals; employers and other third-party payers; federal and state government organizations; healthcare information technology organizations; academic and research institutions; national standards groups; accrediting organizations, manufacturers; community organizations, and consumers. The Foundation will also provide initial funding of $2 million.
“There is a critical need to move healthcare into the information age,” said Zoë Baird, president of the Markle Foundation. “The U.S. healthcare system has not taken full advantage of the information technologies that have revolutionized other industries. With Connecting for Health, we intend to be a catalyst for improving healthcare by bringing sectors together to implement some key standards while protecting patients’ privacy and security.”
Because of the fragmented way that health information is currently collected, it is often unavailable when needed most. The adoption of a core set of electronic information standards is expected to improve clinical decision-making, reduce medical errors, accelerate research on patient outcomes and increase the effectiveness of public health efforts. The work of Connecting for Health will be an important first step toward ultimately enabling patients to gain access to secure medical information, in order to become more informed partners in their own care.
“While we recognize that others have struggled with these issues, we believe that the time is right for a broad-based, collaborative effort focusing on practical solutions,” said Carol Diamond, MD, MPH, managing director of the Markle Foundation’s Healthcare Program and chair of Connecting for Health. “Connecting for Health is designed to build on the good work that has already been done and engage key stakeholders in moving forward together.”
Steering Committee of Industry Leaders
Connecting for Health’s Steering Committee includes a number of recognized progressive leaders in healthcare. As chair of the Steering Group, Dr. Diamond will be joined by three respected executive vice chairs,: John R. Lumpkin, MD, MPH, director, Illinois Department of Public Health and Chair, National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics; Herbert Pardes, MD, president and CEO, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital; Russell J. Ricci, MD, general manager, IBM Global Healthcare Industry. The Collaborative will be organized into three working groups focusing on data standardization, privacy and security, and personal health.
Dr. Ricci is also board chair of the eHealth Initiative, a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the quality, safety and cost-effectiveness of health care through information technology. He said, “we will build upon the eHealth Initiative’s public-private collaboration for public health and will work together to achieve what we know is a vital necessity—an interoperable health care system. With flexible, open data standards we can make significant progress in reducing medical errors, improving patient care and holding the line on escalating healthcare costs.”
The State of Healthcare Information Technology
Despite the sophistication of the U.S. healthcare system, medical information is often collected and reported in a piecemeal fashion. For example, hospitals and physicians are often unable to obtain usable information that will help in applying research breakthroughs or avoiding preventable medical mistakes. Physicians may find themselves providing patient care without always knowing what has been done previously for a patient and by whom.
The lack of standardization means that current information systems are often unable to provide a complete and continuous picture of a patient’s healthcare. Because patients interact with many plans and providers over a lifetime, the continuity of their personal health information is especially vital to their long-term health.
“Clinical data standards are critical to providing the best possible patient care,” said Herbert Pardes, MD, President and CEO, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. “NewYork-Presbyterian has long been committed to standards, and we are pleased to join this effort with other healthcare leaders to find solutions that can serve as a model going forward.”
The Connecting for Health Collaborative is part of a broader effort to build a National Health Information Infrastructure (NHII), an idea first broached in an Institute of Medicine report on computer-based patient records in 1991. The concept has since been elaborated upon and endorsed by a variety of government and private organizations, including a report last year by the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee. The broad goal of the NHII is to deliver reliable data in a secure and private format to consumers and medical professionals when and where they need it, so they can use this information to make informed decisions about health and health care.
Connecting for Health is convening groups in order to build on momentum at a time when there is a greater impetus for change than ever before. “We are acutely aware since 9/11 that the mobility of healthcare information is critical to our national security, because it will enable us to monitor the nation’s health,” said John R. Lumpkin, MD, MPH, director, Illinois Department of Public Health and Chair, National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics. “Standards are a first step toward meeting this critical need.”
The Connecting for Health Collaborative is premised on the belief that with a thoughtful, collaborative and focused approach, the group can succeed in initiating sustainable results.
Markle Connecting for Health is a public-private collaborative with representatives from more than one hundred organizations across the spectrum of health care and information technology specialists. Its purpose is to catalyze the widespread changes necessary to realize the full benefits of health information technology while protecting patient privacy and the security of personal health information. Markle Connecting for Health tackles the key challenges to creating a networked health information environment that enables secure and private information sharing when and where it is needed to improve health and health care. Learn more about Markle Connecting for Health at www.markle.org/health.