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Ellwood Puts His Faith In Technology

The Jackson Hole Group, public policy experts whose ideas became the bulwark of managed care — though not exactly as they envisioned it — have met for the first time in six years to give fixing the system one more try.

This time, the group is talking up information technology as a way to help improve the quality of health care delivery. The informal group met last month at the behest of founder Paul Ellwood, MD.

Ellwood and other members think information technology would allow patients to have access to data about treatments based on medical research and "tools to help them judge the performance" of doctors and hospitals, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The group recommends a voluntary system of electronic medical records — a personal health journal — that patients could store on the Internet and make available to physicians.

Easier said than done. Electronic medical records "exist but are still available only to a fraction of the U.S. population," reports the Journal, adding that many hospitals and other providers cannot afford to build systems geared to such technology.

Still, the idea seems to be in keeping with what the Jackson Hole Group has always wanted: managed competition.

Critics of the current system say that if things had unfolded as the Jackson Hole Group had foreseen, today's health plans would be built on rival provider networks, distinct entities competing on price and quality.

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