Hillary Clinton: Technology provides healthcare reform with necessary evidence

At HIMSS14, former secretary of state, senator praises work of health IT experts
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Debates in Washington, D.C., may sometimes feel like they take place in an "evidence-free zone," but healthcare information technology provides the evidence needed to achieve better healthcare for all, Hillary Clinton said Wednesday during a keynote address at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's annual conference in Orlando, Fla.

Clinton--former secretary of state, New York state senator and first lady (pictured right)--spoke to a crowd of nearly 6,000 and talked about how technology enables better care, helping the healthcare industry see what's beyond the horizon and allowing for better-informed decision making.

"Scare tactics have not helped us understand how to improve care and lower costs," Clinton said. "That's precisely why we need health information technology so badly--to give back to evidence-based policy debates."

Added Clinton, "I am a true believer that good data makes for good decisions, and that's true of medicine, and true of business, government and life. I think it's important to be guided by evidence--by what works or doesn't--not ideology or a past-held belief."

Making evidence-based decisions through health IT requires leaving "naming, gaming, shaming, blaming and point-scoring" at the door, Clinton said.

With the passing of the Affordable Care Act, the state of healthcare in the U.S. is "on the right track," Clinton said. However, she also said that she'd be the first to admit it if it wasn't working.

"If things aren't working ... we need people of good faith to come together and make evidence-based changes, and that's what I hope you can help us do," Clinton said. Health IT will drive all of the positive change and smart innovation, she added.

Technology also gives patients and families information to be partners with doctors in deciding how to take care of themselves, Clinton said. Data, she said, makes patients feel better about their healthcare--it doesn't undermine healthcare, but enhances it. And that's what the healthcare industry must do, whether it's about an individual or the whole healthcare law.

Clinton recognized certain issues with the Affordable Care Act--like small businesses changing workers to part-time to avoid paying for healthcare--as needing to be addressed, but praised other parts of the law, like insuring people with pre-existing conditions and allowing those under 26 to stay on a parent's plan.

She said the law also boosts entrepreneurship--now, no one has to stay with a job simply for the healthcare. Repealing the law, Clinton said, would be a "great tragedy." She added that while it's not perfect, everyone must work toward making it beneficial for as many Americans as possible.

Clinton charged the HIMSS attendees to keep producing the expertise and data necessary to drive real healthcare reform. She praised the organization for seeing where healthcare was going long before anyone else did. 

"I don't think there's any doubt that we're by far the best-positioned country in the world to take advantage of what is changing and happening," Clinton said. "Let's not talk about stuff that's not going to make a difference to anyone. Let's talk about what really is going to matter and how we get a majority of the country and Congress to make those decisions."