Innovations in Health Care Delivery Workshop to be Held by FTC

Workshop to cover health information technology.

by / March 11, 2008

The Federal Trade Commission will host a workshop on April 24, 2008, to examine recent trends related to health care delivery. This workshop will bring together representatives of physician and healthcare associations, industry, privacy groups, academia, federal and state government, and other experts.

The workshop participants will engage in several panel discussions on competition and consumer protection issues regarding particular health care delivery innovations. These issues include:

Health Information Technology -- Electronic health records have the potential to reduce administrative costs and medical errors due to incomplete or faulty paper records. The Department of Health and Human Services has developed an extensive framework to facilitate the adoption of electronic health records by the medical community, including the certification of particular products for creating and maintaining such records. Private companies, such as popular online consumer sites, have also started offering personal electronic health record services. Electronic access to medical expertise -- such as through transfer of diagnostic imaging, real time doctor/patient and doctor/doctor consultation, and remote monitoring -- also has the potential to improve the distribution of medical services. One of the primary consumer protection issues for health information technology is patient privacy and the application of current federal and state privacy protections to electronic health records. Concerns about interoperability of electronic record systems and the impact of state laws on interstate electronic consultation and monitoring also implicate competition concerns.

Limited Service Clinics -- These clinics, which are generally located in pharmacies, shopping malls, and retail stores, provide treatment for basic medical conditions by nurse practitioners and/or physician assistants and offer transparent pricing and convenient hours. Although some groups believe these clinics will improve access to care for underserved populations, others have raised questions about quality of care and adequacy of oversight. These concerns have prompted proposals for new state regulation of such clinics, such as attempts to limit the scope of practice of nurse practitioners in limited service clinics, limit their locations, and prohibit corporate ownership of clinics.

Price and Quality Transparency -- Many believe that consumers, armed with more information about the relative prices and quality of competing health care providers, can make better choices, which can lead to higher quality care and lower health care costs. This has led to initiatives to provide consumers with greater information about the price they pay for health care and the quality of physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare providers. Some observers, however, have expressed concern that consumers may be misled by quality ratings if they are designed to steer consumers to the lowest-priced care provider regardless of quality. Further, increased price transparency may raise some competition concerns.

The workshop, which will be free and open to the public, will be held from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. at the FTC's satellite building conference center, 601 New Jersey Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C.

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