Bush touts digital health info

Broadband Rights-of-Way Memorandum

President Bush this week outlined a plan to have electronic health records for most Americans within 10 years.

Electronic health records will ensure that a patient's complete medical information is available and can be shared securely among health care providers, Bush said in an April 26 speech outlining his technology agenda. The President also called for the adoption of health standards and the creation of a national health information technology coordinator within the Department of Health and Human Services.

Bush's agenda, titled "A New Generation of American Innovation," details policies to encourage the use of technology improvements in health care, Internet access and use of reliable energy.

"Medicine ought to be using modern technologies in order to better share information, in order to reduce medical errors, in order to reduce costs to our health care system by billions of dollars," Bush told an audience at the American Association of Community Colleges Annual Convention in Minneapolis. "To protect patients and improve care and reduce cost, we need a system where everyone has their own personal electronic medical record that they control and they can give a doctor when they need to."

Participation in the electronic records would be voluntary. The first step to achieving the goal, Bush said, was the adoption of standards, and HHS has taken the lead on that effort. The new national coordinator position would work with industry, government and experts to achieve this vision, Bush said. The plan also notes that the administration's fiscal 2005 budget request doubles health IT funding to $100 million to test technology and identify best practices.

"A proper role for the government is to take the lead in this case," Bush said. "The federal government must create the incentives for health care providers involved with the federal government to use medical records, and in doing so, will go a long way toward introducing IT into a part of medicine that desperately needs it."

Bush also outlined his plan for universal, affordable access to broadband technology by 2007 as well as competition among providers for better quality and pricing. Among the initiatives, the president is asking Congress to pass legislation making access to broadband tax-free. The administration also wants to make more of a range available for wireless broadband and create technical standards.

The administration is aiming to remove hurdles for broadband providers, Bush said in his plan, by directing agencies to simplify their rights-of-way processes, so providers can easily cross federally-owned lands. The administration created a Rights-of-Way Working Group, which came out with a report detailing recommendations in four areas, listed in a memo sent yesterday to agencies. They include:

Streamline applications to reduce the administrative burden and cost on providers.

Speed agencies' consideration of rights-of-way applications.

Ensure fees charged by agencies are reasonable.

Ensure agencies have proper tools to promote compliance with rights-of-way permits.

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