Posted December 31, 2008 by Lygeia Ricciardi
Yesterday the New York Times ran an article about an initiative in New York City directed by Dr. Farzad Mostashari, a health department epidemiologist who also serves on the National Advisory Committee for Project HealthDesign.
The initiative is spending $60 million to help independent doctors’ offices – especially small ones and those in underserved areas – use information technology to improve patient care, screen for conditions like cancer, and monitor outbreaks of diseases such as the flu.
The effort is noteworthy in part because it addresses one of the major barriers to the adoption of health information technology by health care providers, particularly in smaller practices: a lack of financial incentives to acquire and use it to improve care.
The New York City Health Department will both subsidize the cost of acquiring technology (which averages about $45K per provider’s office) and pay providers whose patients meet certain wellness goals as much as $20,000 each. Providers are also given information about their performance relative to others so they can address the areas in which they fall behind.
Another point worth noting is the emphasis on prevention, which fits with the initiative’s grounding in public health. So, for example, groups of doctors are sharing services such as the ability to send patient reminders via phone calls or text messages.
A few practices participating in the program are also enabling patients to link directly to their own health information online. Patients can request appointments, check the results of lab tests, or chart their own progress in managing a health condition. Over time perhaps they will integrate more patient-centric tools.
About 1,000 small practices (10% of those in New York City) are already participating in the initiative. We look forward to watching its progress in the New Year.