HHS hopes to improve health IT interoperability in 2008

The Health and Human Services Department fiscal 2008 budget brings the exchange of health data closer to reality as it funds more standards development and tackles privacy issues. HHS' health IT programs are designed to increase the efficiency, effectiveness and safety of the nation's health care.

The 2008 budget request will support the president's goal for most Americans to have personal electronic health records by 2014. In particular, the budget will fund privacy developments to solve potential obstacles in exchanging health data as a result of variations in state law related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

The proposed budget supports HHS' drive for interoperability through millions of dollars directed at the improvement of health IT, both among agencies and in the private sector.

'Standards are being put into place to make health information technology interoperable,' said HHS secretary Mike Leavitt.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT requested $118 million to develop data standards and implement projects to ensure that secure, interoperable electronic health records are available to patients and their doctors 'anytime and anywhere.' This request is an increase of $57 million over the 2007 Continuing Resolution.

Under the proposed 2008 budget, the ONC will direct $5 million to establish a fund within HHS for health data standards development. The agency also would invest $22 million in advancing the use of health IT through implementation of standards established by the public-private advisory group, the American Health Information Community, which HHS leads, as well as the development of a new Partnership for Health and Care Improvement to eventually handle AHIC responsibilities.

The National Institutes of Health has requested $28.9 billion for 2008 to fund more than 560 new and competing research grants, a net increase of $232 million over the House-passed 2007 Continuing Resolution. The agency created a new Clinical and Translational Science Award to 'advance information technology, integrate research networks, stimulate the development of computer assisted outcome measurement and improve workforce training.' NIH would use existing elements of research programs as it transitions into CTSAs, and the total budget for these programs is estimated to be $462 million.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality would allot $45 million of its $330 million budget to health IT investments designed to increase patient safety and improve ambulatory patient care. AHRQ would direct $26 million of its health IT funds to the Ambulatory Patient Safety Program to improve safety and care quality, and $19 million into planning and implementing applications.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would continue to fund its data center and telecommunications infrastructure, in addition to funding systems to manage and administer the new Part D drug benefit. CMS also proposed to transfer its Revitalization funding to this budget line and requested $10 million to continue IT modernization activities.

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