Information Therapy Strengthens Consumer-Directed Health Care

Published June 1, 2009

Private managed-care providers are increasingly using electronic medical records and other information technology systems to get patients and doctors more connected with each other, giving patients more involvement in their treatment decisions and more control over where their medical dollars are spent.

Joseph D. Coletti, a health care policy expert at the North Carolina-based John Locke Foundation, said if more managed care providers were to start using this approach, called “information therapy,” more Americans would see the benefits of consumer-driven health care in creating a better, more affordable health care system.

‘Great Promise and Potential’

“Any time doctors provide more information and educate their patients, it is good,” said Coletti. “It improves patient trust in the doctor and helps the patient make better decisions about his or her care.

“The fact that companies are looking at information therapy as an option is a sign of the strength of competitive health insurance markets in comparison to government-run programs,” Coletti said.

Promoting Doctor-Patient Relationship

Coletti said the initiative will grow as more doctors and patients find out about the benefits of information therapy.

“My doctor spends 45 minutes to an hour with me each visit, just talking,” to collect information about medical history and current symptoms, Coletti said, instead of spending that time on medical examination. “He doesn’t have a computer, he just takes notes. If managed-care companies can find a [medical billing] code for information therapy and set a reimbursement rate for it, that will move care forward by paying doctors for actual consultation with their patients.”

Professor John H. Cochrane of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, an advocate for consumer-driven health care, believes information therapy “is another reason why having a strong private health insurance market is a good thing for the nation.

“Information therapy sounds great,” Cochrane said. “I wish I didn’t have to answer the same questions—[the answers to which are] all in my records—ten times every time I see a doctor.”

Thomas Cheplick ([email protected]) writes from Massachusetts.