Governor Lynch Delivers Keynote Address At National Health Initiative Forum

From the Office of Governor John Lynch

CONCORD - Saying technology can be a powerful tool in improving health care quality, controlling costs and ultimately increasing access, Gov. John Lynch this morning delivered the keynote address at the eHealth Initiative's 3rd annual Connecting Communities for Better Health Learning Forum in Washington, D.C.

Gov. Lynch was asked to deliver the keynote address because of the work of the New Hampshire's Citizen Health Initiative, which he created to bring together health care consumers, providers, business leaders, workers, insurance experts and elected officials to focus on long-term solutions to New Hampshire's health care challenges.

" My goal is that 10 years from now, New Hampshire will still be one of the healthiest states in the nation, more of our citizens will have access to quality health care, and the growth in health care costs will be in line with economic growth, " Gov. Lynch said. " I created the Citizens Health Initiative to help turn that vision into reality. "

Recognizing that improving the health of citizens will ultimately help control costs and increase New Hampshire's ability to increase access, the Citizens Health Initiative is taking a health-first approach. A key part of the Initiative's efforts is to encourage citizens and providers to focus on prevention and quality.

" Far too much of what passes for reform these days is just pushing around costs. Congress would like to limit its increased Medicaid costs by pushing more onto the states. And some states are turning around and pushing those increased costs onto program recipients. Employers are trying to limit their responsibility while increasing that of their employees, " Gov. Lynch said.

" Meanwhile, despite the fact that as a nation we spend more on health care than most other nations, the underlying health of our citizens is not better than the people of other developed nations, " Gov. Lynch said. " Without real change, we risk our health care system collapsing. Until we stop focusing on shifting costs and start focusing on using the money in the system better, we will not fix our health care financing system. "

Technology can be an important tool in making meaningful and lasting reforms in the health care system, Gov. Lynch said.

" Information is to health care what raw materials are to manufacturing. If you don't have the right things at the right place at the right time in the right format the end product is flawed at best, or may not work at all, " he said.

" So I look at a system that may have as many as 98,000 deaths per year as a result of medical error and ask can technology help? I look at a system that has 30 billion transactions each year in the United States - and does 90 percent of those transactions by mail, phone or fax - and ask can technology help? I look at a system where the average Medicare beneficiary will see 6.4 different providers every year and ask would these providers having electronic medical records help? "

Recent studies show that up to 40 percent of outpatient prescriptions are unnecessary and that every year there are 2 million adverse drug reaction events.

" E-prescribing is one of the best examples of how technology can be used to improve quality and make the health care system more efficient, " Gov. Lynch said. " Would you want your banking records to be kept in your doctors' handwriting? I wouldn't. And if we won't accept handwritten records from our banks, do we really think it is good enough for the medications we depend on to keep our families and ourselves healthy? "

That's why the Citizens Health Initiative is working on an initiative to fast-track E-prescribing technology around New Hampshire. Initiative task members will complete by late May an in-depth survey of providers to determine the barriers to E-Prescribing and develop a plan to encourage its use.

The nation's current health care financing system relies on two extremes, Gov. Lynch said.

" Managed care contracts that appeared to award health care providers for not providing services, and the current fee-for-service variations that consider only on the number of procedures and tests provided. We need to find a middle ground that aligns financial considerations, quality and best practices, " Gov. Lynch said.

The Citizens Health Initiative is working with the major insurance providers in New Hampshire to create a consensus around what " performance measures " they will use to expand pay for performance.

" By moving toward a common ' pay for performance ' system, we will put the focus where it belongs: preventative health care, " Gov. Lynch said.

In addition, the Citizens Health Initiative, with the support of New Hampshire's major carriers, the Endowment for Health, and the University of New Hampshire, has created the New Hampshire Health Care Interconnectivity Project, aimed at creating a statewide health information exchange network.

" We are looking for a system that will include electronic medical records, a system that will allow us to reduce medical errors, reduce duplicative procedures, control costs, help encourage pay for performance, and ensure that patients are getting the highest standards of care, " Gov. Lynch said.

Developing electronic medical records must be done in a way that ensures patient confidentiality and privacy comes first, Gov. Lynch said, but, if that goal is accomplished, a common health information network for the state holds great promise for helping improve care and control costs.

In discussing the potential benefits, Gov. Lynch pointed to a medical practice in Penacook that used its electronic medical records to determine how often it was meeting the standards of care for diabetes. After reviewing the results, they revised the system to install new prompts that help ensure that chronic disease patients are getting the highest standard of care - care that will help keep them out of the hospital and reduce their long-term medical costs.

" There is no silver bullet. But I am convinced that we move forward using technology to help improve quality and control costs in the health care system, " Gov. Lynch said.

To read the text of Governor Lynch's remarks click here