Cheryl Whitaker, M.D., is a big fan of government initiatives to automate the industry and promote data exchange. Whitaker, a former internist who now serves as chief medical officer at imaging vendor Merge HealthCare, says lack of data sharing among providers often creates a major obstacle in cost-effective treatment of chronic diseases. Incentive programs such as meaningful use-which rewards practices for adopting EHRs, and ultimately penalizes them if they don't-are a step in the right direction, she says.

"We're practicing in an archaic era when we can't share patient information. The technology exists for interoperability. The government is asking the industry to connect. They're also saying, 'if you don't, we're not going to pay you.' It is an awesome carrot and stick that will make this happen."

A specialist in high blood pressure treatment, Whitaker is opposed to making chronic disease patients have a financial stake in their outcomes, despite the fact that patient behavior is a major contributing factor.

"It's hard to skip from having no stake to having a financial stake," she explains. "We need an intermediate step. We need to engage patients. If patients agree with their treatment plan, they will follow it. But we don't talk to them about it. If you engage diabetic patients, so they understand the disease and what effect it has, maybe they will eat one less slice of cake."

For more on chronic care I.T., click here to read HDM's August print cover story. HDM is also hosting a Web seminar featuring providers who are on the front lines of disease management. To register for the event, click here.


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