The increased use of information technology can and will play a major role in bringing down the costs of the health care system by increasing efficiency and access to patient information, and will be a priority for Congress, according to lawmakers speaking at a conference here.
Speakers from both sides of the aisle appearing at the Americas Health Insurance Plans 2005 National Policy Forum last week spoke of the importance of the federal government facilitating and encouraging the use of information technology in the health care system, possibly through the use of financial incentives.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said it was “ironic” that the nations medical system, which develops new technologies and procedures almost daily, “has fallen so far behind” on information technology.
“Americas health system has in many ways remained in the Stone Age,” he said, “and we need it to be in the information age.” Frist noted that moving to a system of electronic records could reduce the costs to the health care system by as much as 20% according to some estimates. “Congress needs to and will support that goal.”
A key to making that transition, he added, is for the federal government to establish interoperability standards to ensure that different systems will be able to communicate with each other. “Thats our responsibility,” he said.
Democrats, according to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., also want to “accelerate the IT revolution for health care.” Wyden also expressed some concern for interoperability issues but said Democrats are ready and willing to work on the issue, and that the obstacles to reaching the goal of interoperability are by no means insurmountable. Although he could not give a specific timetable for the health care IT expansion, he said “were in the ballpark” on the issue.