Intel Chief Repeats Call for Employers to Demand Change

How dysfunctional is American healthcare? Craig Barrett, the well-heeled chairman and former chief executive of Intel has electronic medical records for the 45 horses on his Montana ranch, and even veterinary test results via e-mail for his equine friends. But the humans close to him have no such technology.

“I wish the average U.S. citizen had the same response my horses did,” Barrett said during an Intel-sponsored Webcast on chronic care management from Washington, D.C., last week.

Even for those Americans lucky enough to have EMRs now, information remains tied to a single medical office or institution in most cases, according to Michael O’Dell, a Tupelo, Miss., doctor who was representing the American Academy of Family Physicians on the Webcast. Specifically, O’Dell lamented the lack of care coordination. “It’s really disruptive to the home health provider,” he said.

Health information has to be portable, agreed Carmella Bocchino, executive vice president of America’s Health Insurance Plans. “We need to do a better job of making sure physicians and clinicians, when they’re seeing a patient, have the most up-to-date information so they can use it, both in their diagnostics and in the therapies they order,” said Bocchino, a registered nurse. This is particularly true in chronic care because patients tend to have multiple chronic conditions.

As Barrett has done many times before, he voiced his belief that change most likely will come from big business outside the healthcare sector. (See “Intel, Wal-Mart Call for Employer Activism in Demanding Health IT Adoption.”) “Systems only change rapidly when the people with the buying power demand the change,” the Intel executive said.

Barrett challenged the healthcare industry to approach 100 percent usage of electronic prescribing within a year and called for coordinated care and growth of pay-for-performance and other outcomes-based reimbursement.

The e-prescribing statement struck a chord with another panelist. “Five years from now, handwritten prescriptions will not be filled,” predicted Thomas Lee, medical director at Partners HealthCare System in Boston.

Also over the next five years, Intel plans on putting its technology into a number of healthcare-specific products such as “smart” medical devices that automatically send values to EMRs, said Mariah Scott, Intel’s general manager for personal health programs. The first such product came out several months ago, namely the Motion Computing’s C5, a specially developed tablet PC for hospital use. (See “Intel, Motion Launch New Clinical Tablet PC.”)

During a round of questioning, Barrett touched on the status of the Dossia project, for which Intel and other major companies are contributing $1.5 million each to develop “lifelong health records” for their U.S. employees. He said that the Dossia companies are working to “divorce” themselves from the primary technology contractor, Omnimedix Institute as a legal battle unfolds. (See “Legal Tiff Won’t Derail Dossia Project, Spokesman Says.”)

“That’s only one of our suppliers,” Barrett said. “We still expect to pilot this program by the end of the year.”

Then, perhaps, some of his company’s workers will have the same access to health information as Barrett does for his horses.

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