Group: Health IT essential to health reform

Organizations want to include health IT in legislation

Billions in economic stimulus law money for health information technology could be wasted if the money isn't coordinated with the Obama administration’s broader health care reform efforts, according to the eHealth Initiative, a group that represents 165 health providers, vendors and organizations.

The eHealth Initiative and 21 other health organizations are urging Congress to integrate health IT adoption goals in broader health care reform efforts. “If the adoption and meaningful use of health IT is viewed as a separate endeavor from health reform, the likelihood will only increase that the money spent to encourage health IT adoption and information exchange will be squandered due to our failure to leverage the capacity of electronic health information and tools to enable and accelerate health reform that is built on the foundation of health information,” the group said in a news release June 9.

The economic stimulus law has $19 billion to encourage health IT, including $17 billion to be distributed as incentive payments to doctors and hospitals who buy and use such systems meaningfully. The Health and Human Services Department is developing a definition of “meaningful use” that will be applied in regulations to be released by the year’s end.

Meanwhile, Congress is writing legislation for broader health care reform.

Meaningful use and exchange of electronic health records would help reduce medical errors, improve preventive care, enable comprehensive comparative effectiveness research, engage consumers more fully in their own treatment, and provide savings, the eHealth Initiative and co-signers said.

“Any major redesign of our health care system must be grounded in a well-defined relationship with the meaningful use of health information technology in order to achieve that advanced level of interconnectivity and interoperability,” they said.

The groups suggested integration of health IT in payment reforms to give incentives for quality care, promotions for preventive care, and the use of health data to better identify disparities in cost and provision of care.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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