|Congress Considering Healthcare IT Measures|
The federal government's push for a national health information network continues. Last month, the Senate approved a reserve fund for healthcare information technology (IT) as part of its fiscal year 2007 budget resolution. Earlier in the month, the Electronic Health Information Technology Act of 2006 was introduced in the House.
HIMSS's Roberts: Pressuring Congress.
The reserve fund would “provide incentives or other support for adoption of modern information technology to improve quality in healthcare.” The Senate proposed a similar reserve fund last year, but it was not included in the appropriations budget of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “It's a positive sign that, for the second year, the Senate has felt it should have that reserve fund set up,” says Dave Roberts, vice president of government relations for the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (Chicago). The House, however, has yet to pass a budget resolution.
On the legislative side, Roberts says the new Electronic Health Information Technology Act is only one of 41 bills that HIMSS is tracking this year. “We are thrilled with the level of interest in healthcare IT that we are seeing on Capitol Hill,” he says. “We're hoping to keep pressure on both the House and Senate to pass some legislation this year.”
Much like other bills currently circulating in Congress, the Electronic Health Information Technology Act, introduced by Representative William Lacy Clay (D–DE), provides incentives, loans, infrastructure, healthcare antikickback exceptions, and other changes to support healthcare IT dissemination and a national health information infrastructure.
“The bill does a lot of good things,” Roberts says. “With 41 bills out there, there's a lot of overlap among them.” One element common among many of the bills, says Roberts, is the creation of an office of health information technology within HHS. This would codify into law the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, headed by David J. Brailer, MD, PhD. The office was established by executive order in April 2004.
Roberts said it's uncertain how far the Electronic Health Information Technology Act will make it in Congress as a bill introduced by a member of the minority party. But he said HIMSS is still hopeful that it will see some healthcare IT legislation passed this year. One challenge will be to get the House to pass a bill that includes grant funding for healthcare IT initiatives, says Roberts. The Senate has traditionally been more supportive of such funding.
Industry association AdvaMed (Washington, DC) has also been coming out in support of the pending healthcare IT legislative initiatives. In mid-March, the group provided testimony to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's subcommittee on health regarding pending legislative proposals to promote electronic health records and a stronger health information system.
The testimony encouraged expeditious implementation of the International Classification of Diseases version 10 (ICD-10) and federal preemption of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules to ensure that data may be stored, updated, and transmitted electronically anywhere in the United States. AdvaMed also encouraged legislation to address certain regulatory barriers that it sees to healthcare IT adoption, including federal healthcare antikickback statutes and physician self-referral laws.
In June, a coalition of about 30 healthcare IT stakeholder organizations, including HIMSS and AdvaMed, as well as various healthcare professional groups, will launch National Health IT Week in Washington, DC. In addition to featured presentations by members of Congress, as well as policy development and education activities, National Health IT Week, June 5–10, will include dual conferences on health IT implementation by HIMSS and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. For more information, visit www.healthitweek.org.
In addition to government initiatives, the integration of healthcare IT and medical devices continues apace. To read more about the latest innovations in device-level IT, look for MX's annual IT Showcase in the upcoming May/June issue.
© 2006 Canon Communications LLC
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