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Report: U.S. Lags in Health IT

By M.L. Baker  |  Posted 2006-05-10 Print this article Print

According to a new study, health IT funding and adoption in the United States is significantly lower than in other developed countries.

The United States lags far behind other countries in its adoption and funding of health IT, according to a study published in the May/June issue of Health Affairs. At the same time, the United States pays much more per person for health care than other rich countries do.

While governments usually pay for health IT in other developed countries, the report says, the United States has relied on the private sector, particularly health insurers. The result, according to the report, is that "the United States lags as much as a dozen years behind other industrialized countries in HIT adoption."

Though it doesn't create a healthier population or universal access to health care, the United States spends nearly two and a half times more per person on health care than the median OECD country. (The Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development is comprised of 30 industrialized countries.) The authors are careful to point out that their study does not show a cause and effect between the United States' high per capita health care spending and its lack of health information and technology; they suggest a link exists. "To the extent that HIT systems are cost-saving in the long run, the lack of an integrated, national IT system for health in the future could exacerbate the position of the United States relative to countries that are HIT leaders," the report says.

While U.S. government expenditures on health IT are well under $1 billion, Britain's National Health Service has spent more than $11.5 billion on its scheme to upgrade IT in a country with 60 million people. The policy was attacked as being too costly and overpaying contractors, but many within the NHS have staunchly defended the spending, saying a big up-front investment is necessary to reap real savings.

According to the report, the United Kingdom has spent about $192 per person for health IT as of 2005; Canada spent $31.85; and Australia, with the second-lowest investment, spent $4.93 per person. Far behind was the United States at $0.43 per person.

The United States got off to a late start: While Germany had a national health IT underway in 1993 and the United Kingdom launched one in 2002, the United States did not even create a federal health IT office until 2004. Outgoing health IT czar David Brailer has long said that the U.S. government will not, like other developed countries, buy IT for its doctors. Instead, he says, the government's role is to create a business case for technology so that health care payers and providers will choose to purchase it.

Read the full story on eWEEK.com: Report: U.S. Lags in Health IT

Monya Baker is co-editor of CIOInsight.com's Health Care Center. She has written for publications including the journal Nature Biotechnology, the Acumen Journal of Sciences and the American Medical Writers Association, among others, and has worked as a consultant with biotechnology companies. A former high school science teacher, Baker holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Carleton College and a master's of education from Harvard.
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