Senate bill would codify national health IT standards

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) today introduced a bill that mirrors much of the recent activity by the Health and Human Services Department's National Health IT Coordination Office.

The two potential 2008 presidential candidates are cosponsoring the Health Technology to Enhance Quality Act that would help create an interoperable health IT system through the adoption of standards to reduce costs, enhance efficiency and improve overall patient care.

'Grounding our health care in IT can cut out waste and redundancies that drive up costs, hamper efficiencies and cause medical errors,' said Frist. Adopting health IT could cut up to 25 percent of health costs. Some estimate the cost savings at up to $200 billion, Clinton said.

The legislation is the first step toward a national framework with quality indicators, Clinton said. "Whoever and wherever a person is, he or she will be able to get the best care because every hospital, doctor and nursing home will have access to the same electronic health record," she said.

The legislation would:

  • Implement health IT standards that will guide the design and operation of interoperable health information systems

  • Codify the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, as well as put into law current standards and interoperability initiatives that the office is pursuing

  • Establish standards for the electronic exchange of health information

  • Authorize $125 million annually for five years for grants to local and regional consortiums to implement health IT infrastructure that is compliant with national standards

  • Establish measures to assess quality of care and

  • Establish standard quality measures to better assess value of federal programs

Other cosponsors of legislation include Sens. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Jim Talent (R-Mo.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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