NLC Supports Electronic Health Records Legislation

Article excerpt

Health information technology (health IT) has the potential to save tens of billions of dollars in annual health care expenses. Legislation to implement health IT, supported by NLC, is quickly moving through Congress.

The 21st Century Health Information Act (H.R. 2234), cosponsored by Reps. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.), was recently introduced in the House of Representatives with the goal of putting electronic medical records and e-prescribing in every doctor's hands.

Up until now, health care has been slow to transition to technology-based administration because of the high cost and lack of uniform standards allowing health information to be shared.

The 21st Century Health Information Act addresses these obstacles by creating pilot health IT networks while protecting patient security and privacy.

The process will allow doctors to use technology to streamline patient information by electronically linking medical records, catching conflicting prescription and improving public health monitoring; and medical errors will be drastically reduced.

"Whether you're worried about Medicaid, access to prescription drugs, malpractice premiums, the uninsured--you name it--the trend lines are going in the wrong direction because we aren't set up to get the best possible health outcomes at the lowest possible cost," said Kennedy. "Health IT is key to making the system deliver the right care to the right people at the right time as efficiently as possible."

Companion legislation passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in July. S. 1418 was co-sponsored by Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), and Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Like H.R. 2234, S. 1418 establishes a grant program for the development and implementation of health care technology networks throughout the country.

Whereas, the House bill provides 20 three year grants to regional health information organizations, the Senate bill authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to award competitive grants to nonprofit hospitals; group practices and other health care providers.

The Senate bill would also establish within HHS an Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology.

"We have the most advanced medical system in the world, yet patient safety is compromised every day due to medical errors, duplication and other inefficiencies," said Clinton. …