Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez this morning kicked off a two-day public workshop in Washington examining the challenges of competition in the healthcare industry. 

"I don't have to explain to this audience why competition in the healthcare industry is such a high priority for the FTC," said Ramirez. "Healthcare accounts for over 17 percent of GDP and study after study tells us that vigorous competition in healthcare markets reduces costs, improves quality, and expands access to care for consumers."

The FTC workshop will explore professional regulation of healthcare providers, innovations in healthcare delivery, advancements in healthcare technology, measuring and assessing healthcare quality, and price transparency of healthcare services. Among other technologies, Ramirez said that the workshop will examine the competitive implications of electronic health records. She said a major goal of the workshop is to help the FTC better understand the most recent developments in healthcare quality measurement and assessment and how this information may affect competition for healthcare services.

"Although I have recognized the value of retrospective study in the past, today's event is about equally important prospective study," Ramirez told the workshop. "I believe that looking back on our previous enforcement activities can help to better inform our current and future priorities. But, in an industry such as healthcare which is undergoing significant and rapid evolution, we must also invest our resources to understand and anticipate change." 

In a Feb. 24 Federal Register notice, the FTC asked for public comment on more than 50 questions that may be used in a subsequent report or policy paper on the issue of competition in the healthcare industry. The public comment period is open until April 30. 

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