Ga Companies Sign Health Reform Initiative at Tech

Health Systems at Georgia Tech and Emory hosts Ga. businesses and Gov. Perdue for signing of health reform initiative

In a meeting at the Georgia Institute of Technology, representatives from top Georgia companies and organizations such as The Coca Cola Co., AT&T, United Parcel Service, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Georgia Hospital Association and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce joined Georgia Gov. Sonny Purdue, Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and Founder of the Center for Health Transformation Newt Gingrich and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt to sign their support for a national initiative aimed at improving health care quality, information and cost-effectiveness for employees and their families.

Francois Sainfort, director of the Health Systems Institute (HSI) at Georgia Tech and Emory University and the associate dean of Georgia Tech's College of Engineering, signed the initiative on behalf of Georgia Tech and the Health Systems Institute.

"Georgia Tech is pleased to host this event to draw attention to the need for electronic systems for health care," said G. Wayne Clough, president of Georgia Tech. "Through our Health Systems Institute, Georgia Tech and our partner, Emory University, are working to make many of the goals outlined in this national initiative a reality."

The Health Systems Institute was chosen to host the event because it is developing many of the technologies needed to make these health care improvements technically possible. The institute creates systems and technologies designed to help improve communication among all the players in health care, from the patients to the doctors, administrators and insurers. It partners with local, regional and national health care organizations to research, develop, implement, test and distribute improved technologies for health care that will integrate state-of-the-art information, decision support, communication and biomedical technologies.

"HSI's mission is to create novel methods and technologies to transform health care delivery systems and lead the nation away from an ineffective, reactive, disease-focused system to achieve a cost-effective, proactive, high quality, health- and wellness-focused system," Sainfort said. "The Value-Driven Health Care initiative represents one important step for this transformation to happen."

For example, one of HSI's projects focuses on the development of a comprehensive electronic patient record that contains everything from a genetic profile and socio-demographic information to detailed clinical and insurance information to help doctors and health professionals make better-informed and more efficient decisions about a patient's health care.

The Georgia businesses and organizations signed a pledge to provide quality and price information about doctors, hospitals and other medical providers for all enrollees in their health care insurance programs. This information will help employees choose health care providers based on the quality of care they deliver and the prices they charge.

In addition, the employers agreed to support health information technology by encouraging the use of recognized interoperability standards in the health IT products used by their health plans. They also pledged to develop incentives for achieving better value in health care, including incentives for high quality care and for more active involvement by employees in choosing their health care services.

These four actions are the 'cornerstones' of an initiative launched last November by Secretary Leavitt. By committing to these actions, Georgia employers are joining a growing number of states and companies that are pledging to make quality and price information available to health plan enrollees in order to enable them to compare providers when they purchase health care services.

President Bush committed federal health programs to these four 'cornerstones' through an Executive Order last August. In November, Secretary Leavitt invited all employers, in both the private and public sectors, to take these same four steps. By committing to these goals, he said, "Our individual actions will be aligned toward reaching the common national goal of better health care at lower cost."