By investing in health care IT, we will also create new jobs at a time when our economy needs them. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation estimates that a one-year investment of $10 billion in health care IT would create as many as 212,000 new jobs in the U.S.
More important is the effect that IT investment will have on the care provided to individual patients. With electronic records, primary care doctors will have the knowledge that they need about each patient to make treatment most effective and to coordinate care with specialists, hospitals and the patients themselves. A one-year pilot study by Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania tracked results of a newly designed delivery system, which emphasizes quick access to care, access to electronic health records by both patient and doctor, as well as the availability of care coordinators and home monitoring systems. This model reduced hospital admissions by 20 percent and saved 7 percent in overall medical costs.
By focusing on primary care, we can move U.S. health care toward a system that promotes wellness and prevention and away from its current emphasis on the treatment of illness. Chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, account for the majority of health care spending in the U.S. We wont see the end to spiraling costs until we are able to prevent chronic illnesses and help those with chronic illnesses better manage their health.
By deploying electronic health records for all Americans, we will also help spur new investments and create more new jobs in related areas, such as medical research, drug discovery and evaluation, and home medical monitoring.
In the years ahead, the U.S. health system faces the increased demands of caring for an aging population, which is likely to further stretch limited resources. At the same time, public health experts predict that the high instances of obesity among Americans will lead to increased levels of chronic illness. We will need a vastly smarter health care system to be able to handle these heavy demands and to see improvements in costs, patient outcomes and overall quality of life in the U.S.
Christopher G. Caine is vice president of governmental programs at IBM.