The Department of Health and Human Services recently awarded $18.6 million in contracts to 4 consortia to expedite the use of modern technology in health care. The groups, Accenture, the Computer Sciences Corp, IBM, and Northrop Grumman, are building health systems in 12 regions across the United States, which will serve as models for the country. The contracts are a small percentage of the investment that the groups will make in the regions.
While the government will set goals and require that companies link physician offices, clinics, and hospitals in computer networks using open data standards so that information can be easily shared, how to achieve these objectives is in the hands of the private sector.
The pilot programs will require the companies to develop personal digital health records and provide physicians with affordable on-line access to patient records, diagnostic information, and billing. Each of the 4 consortia will oversee 3 regions in which it must create local health networks over the next year. Each group can use different technologies, as long as one local network can pass patient and other health information back and forth to other local networks.