The role of IT in health care is commanding more and more interest from the top tiers of the federal government, with the House of Representatives now working on ways to advance the use of technology in the field.
Since President Bushs State of the Union address in January, health care IT has drawn unprecedented interest from the governments highest ranks, with Tommy Thompson, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, also weighing in on the benefits of IT in health care and the challenges it faces.
Furthering this trend, the health subcommittee of the House of Representatives powerful Ways and Means Committee met Thursday to review recent health care IT initiatives and discuss priorities for the near future.
Representatives from both the public and private sectors who testified before the panel included David Brailer, the newly appointed national health IT coordinator, along with representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Kaiser Permanente, the American Medical Informatics Association and the eHealth Initiative.
Read the full transcripts of their testimony to the subcommittee here.
In his testimony, Brailer laid out three goals he called essential to making effective electronic health records available for all Americans: the implementation of technology in clinical practice, the interconnection of care between various providers and the improvement of patient health.
Only 8 percent of physician offices have invested in IT so far, according to the American Health Quality Association (AHQA), a national group of organizations dedicated to improving health care quality.
Brailer said the widespread use of electronic medical records also will give researchers the ability to use anonymous patient health information to better understand health outcomes and to choose the most effective diagnostic and treatment options.
President Bush has called for electronic health records to be in use for most Americans within the next decade.
Brailer cited early successes at the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs in the use of IT, saying that these agencies “have surpassed the private sector in successfully incorporating health information technology into the delivery of health care, and will play a central role in adoption efforts.”
He also urged the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program that provides health care coverage for all federal workers, to start pushing its vendors for the consistent use of electronic records.