Bush Brings Back Health Care IT

The President proposes spending an additional $50 million in support of health care IT in 2005.

After a sustained pause in federal government momentum around health IT, President George W. Bush firmly took up the cause again after showing some lack of fiscal commitment late last year to the concept he had earlier championed.

In the federal appropriations bill that Congress passed in November, the nine-month-old Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information, led by David Brailer, saw its budget to support health IT projects whittled down to $4 million from the requested $50 million. At the time, $50 million did go to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality for grants in support of health care IT.

Now Bush is pledging to drum up an additional $50 million in support of health care IT for the 2005 fiscal year. In addition, hes calling for another $125 million in fiscal year 2006 toward "demonstration projects that will help test the effectiveness of health IT."

The announcement came as President Bush visited a Cleveland health care clinic Thursday. Joining him on this trip for his first official public appearance in this capacity was the newly appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency. He was also joined by ONCHIT head David Brailer.

The President noted the continued lack of IT in the health care field. "Most industries in America have used information technology to make their businesses more cost-effective, more efficient and more productive, and the truth of the matter is, health care hasnt," Bush said.

A White House release on the topic further observed that while other industries were busy spending $8,000 per worker on information technology in the late 90s, health care only spent a meager $1,000 per employee.

At his appearance, Bush bantered with doctors from the regions well-respected health care facilities, Cleveland Clinic and Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, to help highlight the benefits of and need for health IT.

With its adoption of a state-of-the-art EHR (electronic health record) system last year, Evanston Northwestern Healthcare reported significant improvements in patient safety, health care quality and operating efficiency.

/zimages/3/28571.gifHealth Care Center Editor M.L. Baker says that until EHRs improve, there wont be a market for them. Click here to read her column.

The benefits attributed to this EHR system include an annual savings of $12 million, a 20 percent decrease in reported medication errors, and the reduction of accounts receivables time lag from 90 days to 60 days for hospitals and from 120 days to 60 days for doctors offices.

The implementation of the Evanston Northwestern Healthcare EHR system spans all health care staff at 3 hospitals and more than 60 doctors offices. The electronic prescribing function also enabled caregivers to identify 2,700 Vioxx patients within three hours of the drugs withdrawal from the market and to notify each doctors office of their affected patients.

/zimages/3/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis of technologys impact on health care.