The Real Secrets Behind Health IT And Drug Research

This morning, Fox News followed-up on yesterday’s manufactured hysteria about two so-called “secret” health provisions in the stimulus bill by interviewing Betsy McCaughey — the author of the Bloomberg editorial that sparked the so-called controversy.

Despite reading two statements to the contrary, the hosts and their guest continued to mischaractarize the provisions as a socialist government takeover of health care that would result in Big Brother watching over Americans’ shoulders. It wasn’t until the program’s 10 o’clock hour that Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) set the record straight.

Watch it:

Indeed, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology would establish minimum privacy standards for technology vendors selling health IT equipment to doctors, but does not grant the federal government access to the confidential documents; nor does it require physicians to follow treatment guidelines. In order to become “meaningful users” of health IT, doctors have to implement an electronic system by 2015, they are not required to change their treatment practices.

Broad implementation of Health IT, which would reduce medical errors, increase efficiency, and create over 200,000 new jobs, has generated broad bipartisan support. Consider this Washington Times article by Newt Gingrich and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI):

Health IT should be what railroad tracks were for transportation 150 years ago: basic infrastructure. A modernized, interconnected health system that electronically links patients, physicians, hospitals, pharmacies, public health agencies, payers and key emergency responders would allow all to share accurate, patient-protected information, and that will undoubtedly save lives and save money…Second, health IT will allow us to capture data and then determine which treatments work and which do not. Today, only about 10 percent of all health care is based on evidence. That means that 90 percent of the care we receive is, basically, informed opinion. We need a rigorous, clear system to measure the costs, benefits and value of a given procedure, technology or drug.

Gingrich and the other lawmakers who believe that Health IT could lay the foundation for comparative effectiveness research aren’t advocating for the rationing of medical care, as Fox News and one absolutely hysterical editorial in today’s Washington Times suggest. The goal here is to provide doctors with information about good treatments, improve medical outcomes, and to stop spending money on procedures that don’t work and harm patients. As Tim Foley explains:

We know there’s a problem here, with a Dartmouth College study approximating at least $700 billion is spent each year on treatments that don’t lead to better health.  But we don’t know the specifics until we analyze the data.  If I was a responsible steward of taxpayer’s money, I’d want to know what we’re spending money on that doesn’t work.