RealTime IT News

An Accenture on Health IT

NEW YORK -- Accenture  demonstrated how technologies currently available on the market can be stitched together to improve the quality of health care while driving down costs.

Peter Glaser, an executive with Accenture's technology labs, showed how commonly used biometric devices like blood-pressure cuffs, heart-rate monitors, and weight scales can gather patient information and send data wirelessly on a continuous basis to a remote analytic engine that aggregates, filters, extracts and displays high-level trends about the patient's current condition.

The trends can be monitored by nurses or other remote practitioners whenever alerts show that the patient's personalized thresholds have been exceeded.

The personalization is important because different people have different thresholds. If trends indicate than a particular patient may be headed towards trouble, the center can contact a physician or specialist via VoiP  or webcast and deliver current trends as well as any relevant history the caregiver needs.

Doctors can review the information and decide whether follow-up care is needed, if a prescription needs adjusting or whether the trends are not alarming. The keys here are that caregivers can be alerted to potential problems more quickly and can react more quickly -- which reduces expenses.

Continuous monitoring and virtual care "is a model that is inherently more efficient than the episodic model," Glaser told internetnews.com.

Glaser said that Accenture is working to "integrate multiple emerging technologies and to propose new used that the original technology makers may have never even thought of."

The global consulting and integrated services vendor is also trying to encourage industry and government to settle on standards so that networks such as the one Glaser demonstrated can connect across the country and, eventually, around the world.

Currently, the information contained in his home network in Chicago would be unavailable to doctors if he got sick here in New York, he said. But an increasing number of hospitals and other medical providers are using standards-based technology. "I'm more optimistic than I've been in the past" about the creation of interconnected networks," he said.

Those hopes got a significant boost today during hearings held by the subcommittee on regulations, health care and trade of the House Committee on Small Business.

Testifying at the hearing, Roger Cochetti, group director of U.S. public policy for the Computing Technology Industry Association, urged Congress to adopt incentives "that would aid and assist small health care providers to purchase, install and maintain hardware and software," including tax incentives and accelerated deduction of health IT costs.

"Without added incentives, we fear that the costs of acquiring and operating [health care IT] systems would prevent many small practitioners from participating in this important and vital advancement for health care in the United States," he said in his prepared remarks.

The prospects for these tax and accounting incentives are good, given that this is one issue on which the Democratic-controlled Congress and the Republican-held White House agree. Heath and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt has been crisscrossing the country giving stump speeches to business leaders to garner support for increased use of IT in the country's health care system.