President Bush today signed an Executive Order titled “Promoting Quality and Efficient Health Care in Federal Government Administered and Sponsored Health Care Programs,” directing federal agencies that administer health care programs to take steps to promote quality care. It also states that agencies must do these three things: create incentives for beneficiaries to care about the quality and price of their health programs; address interoperability of health information technology products; and make health information more transparent to consumers.
To support this and other health initiatives in the President’s Management Agenda, the Department of Defense has initiated several activities intended to realize the promise of improved and more efficient health care for all beneficiaries of the Military Health System (MHS).
“Our actions are helping to mold a health system that excels in quality health care services and cost effectiveness,” said Dr. William Winkenwerder, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. “With new treatments being discovered everyday and medical costs continuing to spiral upward, the more information the beneficiary knows the better. Our goal is to involve our patients more deeply in managing their own medical care and ultimately improving the quality of care.”
In one initiative, Tricare is partnering with industry, current health managers and providers, who contract with DoD in developing robust measures of quality health care that can be consistently applied by the MHS as a unified effort. These ongoing “data quality summits” are developing a core set of metrics that will enable both MHS leaders and beneficiaries in making sound decisions about health choices.
“We’re really pleased with the momentum and accord we’ve achieved with our contract partners in enhancing the quality measures we already review and making them more presentable to the service or family member who wishes to make an informed decision about their care.” Winkenwerder said.
In another initiative, the MHS is actively engaged in strategic partnerships with both the public and private sectors to advance health care information science and to promote and define standards for health information technology systems interoperability.
“Under the American Health Information Community umbrella, the department has worked to improve coordination and collaboration to achieve the President’s health IT goals,” Winkenwerder said. “DoD has made significant progress advancing health care information technology through large-scale adoption and deployment of AHLTA, giving us a unique leadership role at the national level.”
AHLTA is nearing full implementation throughout the MHS. Working with the Office of the National Coordinator, DoD is using what it is learning with AHLTA to improve health data sharing with Health and Human Services and others to leverage federal health IT investments.
“The department is a major investor in health information technology and we understand the importance of reducing redundancy and achieving interoperability,” Winkenwerder said. “We support the harmonization of health standards relative to data, technology, security, and communications as one of the key foundations for interoperability and improved health care quality. We are, in fact, leading the way.”
In still another initiative to promote transparency of health care pricing and quality, TRICARE has posted its allowable charges on an easy-to-use Web site at http://www.tricare.osd.mil/allowablecharges . The cost of medical care varies widely across the country. Neither hospitals nor doctors’ offices typically post their charges for various procedures, making it hard for patients to judge if they are being charged a reasonable amount for operations or examinations.
By making its charges easily available to the public, Tricare is leveling the playing field between medical service providers and users.
The new Web site shows the Tricare maximum allowable charge tables, listing the most frequently used procedures – more than 300 of them – and the amount Tricare is legally allowed to pay for them. These charges are tied to Medicare allowable charges, effectively making them a federal standard for health care costs.