Remember that great scene in "Jerry Maguire" where Tom Cruise is pleading with Cuba Gooding Jr. to get his act together? The two are in the locker room and Cruise utters those famous words, "Help me, help you. Help me, help you."
Well, that's sort of the message that Secretary Kathleen Sebelius delivered this morning during her keynote address. Speaking to a packed room, Sebelius called on attendees to become more vocal advocates—and partners—in making sure that health IT truly transforms care delivery. She called on the health IT community to actively promote IT solutions not as just IT, but as tools to improve workflow, patient safety and quality of care. She also urged larger providers and vendors to reach out to smaller physician practices and hospitals to help them become meaningful users. And, importantly, she said we need to ensure that health IT is used to close the gap we see in health care disparities.
Sebelius also pointed out that many of the goals of the Affordable Care Act without robust—and meaningful (there's that word again)—health IT systems.
"Health reform needs health information technology," she said, and vice versa. She astutely noted that the market for health IT will be determined by how well hospitals, doctors, nurses and other use the technology.
David Blumenthal, M.D., followed Sebelius, but didn't really break any new ground. As many of you probably know, Blumenthal will step down this spring as national coordinator for health IT. He's returning to Harvard. His speech was very similar to one he delivered at our Rural Health Leadership Conference earlier this month. He rattled off a series of accomplishments and challenges and reiterated his belief that meaningful use has the potential to transform care delivery like no other program in history.
That's been a consistent theme this week: that we have to move away from thinking of meaningful use as an IT deployment and begin to understand the potential for improving patient safety and quality of care.
"In many ways, ARRA is incenting us to do the things that we should be doing anyway," Karen Thomas, VP and CIO at Main Line Health, a Pennsylvania-based health system, told me when we sat down to chat yesterday. We can debate some of the specifics of regulations, but the overall intent is to push hospitals and doctors to get to the next level, and that's the right goal, she said.