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TECH: No I’m Not Really ChangingMy View About IT in Healthcare, But …By The Industry Veteran

So maybe IT can have some marginal role after all in addressing health care costs and quality.  The key word is “marginal” and the point of influence is not necessarily where the techie devotees think it will be.  I still believe the focus upon IT in the provider segment is mainly a dodge, but here’s some information that has me at least conceding the “marginal” effect.

The Big Pharma companies, in their current, manic effort to devise methods of reducing SG&A expenses by slashing their sales forces, are currently contemplating vastly expanded roles for websites and other IT venues to deliver their commercials in lieu of in-person reps.

Some of the communication strategies under consideration are highly ingenious.  They involve conferring CME credits on physicians as well as other inducements, some pecuniary and others hedonistic.  Most of the schemes involve simplified, e-versions for physicians to obtain samples, patient information materials and invitations to offsite sessions.  A number of the tactical plans involve gifting physicians with handheld devices that can also digitize charting even as they deliver commercially slanted education/information.

I have my doubts about whether any of this rep-in-the-hand stuff will reduce costs for payers or improve the quality of delivery. Certainly the determining factor over whether its gets deployed in the first place consists of the extent to which it improves the margins of pharma companies and the pocket cash for physicians.  If anyone thinks that an improved take home for these two groups will, for instance, lower drug prices, then he’s also probably persuaded that the US invaded Iraq to remove WMDs and replace a brutal dictator with democracy. I have my doubts about the value of spending much time trying to change the thinking of such believers.   

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