The term “liberated information” may sound like it was taken from a science fiction novel, but to General Electric’s (NYSE:GE) Earl Jones, it’s a means to improve access and quality to healthcare while at the same time making it cheaper. Jones is the vice president and general manager of the eHealth division of GE Healthcare, overseeing the development of information technology platforms that customers ranging from small doctors’ offices to state governments are implementing into their everyday operations.
Jones believes healthcare IT can change the model for care by eliminating information “silos.” Though though he says that the systemic problems of the fee-for-service model in the U.S. are hard to fix, liberating information can fundamentally change healthcare.
“One of the other very important issues that is driving dysfunction in healthcare today is the lack of information transparency. It’s the old adage, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. The lack of information transparency gives what I like to call a best efforts healthcare system … if you can’t measure the outcome of your efforts, all you’re doing is trying really hard. It’s not a performance-based healthcare system.”
Jones describes GE as an infrastructure company. Prior to being tapped for the company’s health IT segment, he was global commercial leader for GE’s water & process technologies division, which develops tools to treat water for millions of people to use and drink. His new role is somewhat analogous to his previous one, in that the products he works with are designed to help entire populations, but healthcare IT involves much more nuanced and nascent policies that have dominated headlines for the last two years.
The political issues that businesses in the healthcare IT sector must contend with won’t be going away any time soon, but aside from the explosive topic of paying for changes to healthcare, there are also issues of privacy and system interoperability. For privacy, Jones told MassDevice that managing consent for the digitization of a patient’s health records is harder than proving that a system is safe and secure. The standards with which healthcare IT is developed are also hardly set in stone. Washington’s healthcare IT czar Dr. David Blumenthal recently told room full of hospital and medical center executives in Boston that there is a raging debate over competition vs. standards within healthcare IT development circles.
Jones’ division has had success in implementing and launching health information exchanges and electronic medical records and can boast large clients such as Vermont Information Technology Leaders, Geisinger and Boston Medical Center. GE Healthcare is also in the process of investing $90 million in its eHealth products.
MassDevice spoke with Jones recently, who delved into a helpful taxonomy of eHealth products (such as electronic medical records, designed for doctors’ offices, to healthcare information exchanges, which can handle entire geographical areas) before getting into the politics of healthcare IT and how information transparency might help control the cost of healthcare while improving quality.
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