ATP FOCUSED PROGRAM: Information Infrastructure for Healthcare
Potential for U.S. Economic Benefit. The healthcare industry has a pivotal role in the economic health of the country. Medical spending exceeded $938 billion in 1994, and conservative estimates figure 20 percent of todays healthcare costs are related to the processing of information. Using effective information technology systems in the healthcare industry can deliver substantial cost savings while also strengthening an important sector of our industry. On the other hand, continuation of todays segmented applications of information systems to healthcare will only move the industry further from the possibility for a seamless information infrastructure.
Growth in the healthcare industry should be part of a systemwide approach to information systems. It should not be driven by isolated technology applications that provide only piecemeal solutions to our healthcare information needs.
Even so, healthcare is the fastest growing market in the computer field. Medical software systems, for example, have uses in patient monitoring, financial information tracking, and analysisall increasingly important tasks as our information infrastructure for healthcare develops. The ATP focused program can drive further the growth rate for both computer hardware and medical information systems used in the healthcare industry.
Technology Challenge. The ATP Information Infrastructure for Healthcare focused program develops technologies at each of three consecutive levels:
Industry Commitment. This focused program builds on more than 30 detailed "white papers" submitted by industry and on follow-up discussions with the representatives of companies and organizations in several sectors of the healthcare and information communities.
About 400 of these representatives took part in a workshop to help formulate this program. Major industry consortia have begun to address the very complex interoperability issues related to a national information infrastructure for healthcare. These consortia include the Computerized Patient Record Institute, The Healthcare Open System Trials program, and the National Healthcare Industry Consortium. Although member companies do research on individual technologies, ATP funding is needed to catalyze development of an infrastructure that will connect these islands of automation. The consortia and other players have agreed to at least match the cost of any technology development on the part of the federal government if they submit successful proposals.
Significance of ATP Funds. Existing multimillion-dollar programs of research in healthcare information technology lack the coordination and integration necessary to share information nationwide. For example, individual hospitals are developing or installing their own information technology systems without knowing how to make sure that they will be connected seamlessly to the national healthcare enterprise. These institutions run the risk of investing huge resources in systems that will limit inherently the ability of othersincluding suppliers, insurance companies, and non-affiliated physiciansto make the best, most efficient use of the information contained in those systems. Furthermore, they miss out on the economies of scope that a more systematic approach to healthcare information systems would bring.
Today, the development of the technology needed to establish a national, interoperable, dynamic information system is unlikely to occur with current industry effort. By creating a way for the private-sector players to coordinate their efforts, the ATP can minimize the individual risk so that investments can be made in the technologies necessary for long-term success.
Other government agencies are investing in information technology applications for healthcare, but the money flows almost exclusively to one of three areas: funding basic health research; low-risk, near-term problems directly related to the mission of the funding organization; or establishing small, isolated pilot projects using existing technology. NIST has, in fact, involved many of those agencies as this program has been developed to ensure coordination and cooperation. The ATP focused program is unique in providing funding for high-risk technology development projects that are led by industry and designed to have a major economic impact on both the U.S. information technology sector and on the healthcare system that so desperately needs to take better advantage of the benefits that information technology can deliver.
Additional Information. For information about eligibility, how to apply, and cost-sharing requirements, contact the Advanced Technology Program:
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/ Technical ATP inquiries: InfoCoord.ATP@nist.gov
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