Bush orders transparent health price, quality data

President Bush today signed an executive order that requires agencies to provide enrollees in their health care services information about the quality and price of common procedures. Agencies have until Jan. 1, 2007, to comply.

'It is the purpose of this order to ensure that health care programs administered or sponsored by the federal government promote quality and efficient delivery of health care through the use of health information technology, transparency regarding health care quality and price, and better incentives for program beneficiaries, enrollees and providers,' said the president in the executive order signed today.

The president also wants this information available in a 'readily useable manner.'

The order affects agencies that provide coverage to nearly 25 percent of all Americans with health insurance. Those include the Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs and Defense departments, and the Office of Personnel Management.

As agencies acquire and update health IT systems for data exchange, they also are required to use recognized interoperability standards, the order said.

The information will enable consumers to make informed choices among doctors and hospitals, and it will help support doctors and hospitals that deliver high-quality care and avoid unnecessary health care costs. That will create opportunities to improve care and lower its costs.

The president said he hopes the federal action will be followed by similar commitments in the private sector, and in state and local government.

The president said the order is a first step in a larger plan to provide open health quality and price information for all American consumers.

"People deserve to know what their health care costs, how good it is, and the choices available to them," said HHS secretary Mike Leavitt in a statement.

The effort will begin with information available now and will grow in volume and sophistication over time, he said.

Ultimately, under the president's plan, local information on the quality and cost of care for most Americans would be available from the collaboration of health care providers, public and private payers, and other stakeholders in different regions of the country. It would create a broad, reliable foundation of information on the quality and price of services delivered by each health care provider. Quality and cost measures developed through this process would be made available to consumers.

A federally sponsored program is currently underway in six geographic areas that will examine best practices for aggregating and sharing information, Leavitt said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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