How Daschle-care will change Health IT

Summary:My guess is the first job of a Federal Health Board would be to seek better data on both wellness and illness. This implies the creation of vast, interlocking databases on all Americans, matched to medical transaction data.

Tom Daschle, photo from Wikimedia, source U.S. SenateThe news that former Senate Minority Leader (and author)  Tom Daschle will be the new Secretary of Health and Human Services is leading to a lot of speculation about what that means for health reform.

It means even more for health IT.

The reason for that is what, financially, is a rounding error. Daschle wants to create a Federal Health Board, modeled on the Federal Reserve, to offer a non-partisan direction for both private and public efforts.

What makes the Federal Reserve tick is data. The need for accurate economic data, for better collection and better presentation, is a never-ending preoccupation for Fed policymakers.

Data should also be a big part of the Federal Health Board effort. Only when we have a clear idea of where we are can we start managing to results, which is the ultimate aim.

Compare the sophistication of modern electronic payment networks, and the quality of the statistics they generate, with what we know about American health care and you start to see the size of the problem.

The best ways we now have to evaluate American health is through surveys, which give us estimates, and studies that are the equivalent of polls.

Imagine if we ran monetary policy in that way. In ordinary times we would be flying blind. In extraordinary times, like now, we would have to wait for the Depression to be self-evident to know our policies were not making things worse.

My guess is the first job of a Federal Health Board would be to seek better data on both wellness and illness. This implies the creation of vast, interlocking databases on all Americans, matched to medical transaction data.

By seeking to make this "above politics," Daschle gives the work a technocratic base that hides resistance to having our health tracked behind a simple need for accurate data informing policy.

If we could make it a goal to have health data as good as our present financial data within 10 years, we would be guaranteeing a revolution in health IT. It would be the Obama Administration's moon shot.

That seems to be where Secretary Daschle is aimng.

Topics: IT Employment, CXO, Enterprise Software, Health, Software

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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