Authors: Antonio Oftelie
May 3, 2006
Harvard Business School

A new frontier is being explored in the creation and delivery of healthcare information. The advent of a nationwide Health Information Network (HIN) infrastructure will bring electronic medical records and consumer portals, e-prescribing, real-time consumer/provider communication, and more efficient provider/payer communication – all facilitated over a ubiquitous, interoperable, and secure network. This new frontier will empower individuals to control and allocate their personal health information in a more personalized and involved way and will bring about massive changes in the way consumers, providers, and payers of healthcare products, services, and information interact.

With the health care industry representing 14% of the United States Gross Domestic Product, the benefits to a comprehensive “e-health connectivity system” far outweigh the costs. Utilization of Electronic Medical Records is estimated to save $112 Billion annually in ambulatory settings, including $34 Billion in office efficiencies and $78 billion from efficiencies derived from interoperability. Lastly, and most importantly, Electronic Medical Records would eliminate of up to 98,000 annual deaths from information-based errors.

Yet with all this need, the adoption of health information network (or network of networks) has been slow across the United States. There is a true “chicken and egg” challenge in this sector as there are powerful benefits on both sides of the network yet a critical mass needs to be reached in order to spur adoption. On the consumer side of the network (healthcare patients), the benefits to a higher level of control of their health care information and an enhanced level of planning based on their personal health trend and context makes the market for Personal Health Information Portals (PHIP) compelling, yet there are few examples of consumer friendly applications for 3 interacting with the network. On the provider side of the network (hospitals, clinics, and payers/insurance companies) the cost savings and increased efficiency derived from the network are substantial and must be exploited, yet technology complexity and lack of a network-wide business model has slowed adoption. The market research conducted for this paper focused on anecdotal evidence of new technologies for the consumer side of the network and a survey on the provider side -– the point at which the largest barriers intersect.

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