A coalition of more than 90 healthcare organizations is heaping praise on a pledge by President Bush to boost federal funding by 53% for hospitals to acquire clinical information technology in the name of patient safety, although the administration has offered few details on the spending plan.
"President Bush's announcement is a critical step forward," Carol C. Diamond, M.D., chair of Connecting for Health, a national IT connectivity effort, said Thursday. "There is an urgent need to ensure that information systems become interoperable so that vital health information is available when and where it is needed in a way that protects patient privacy and security."
In a speech to the AMA on Tuesday in which he outlined his proposal for Medicare reform and caps on malpractice awards, Bush made a brief reference to the fact that most medical records remain paper-based because healthcare, "has lagged in information technology"
According to Bush, "Patient safety also improves when doctors can have access to health records without delay. When a patient has a medical emergency far from home, the attending physician should have quick access to that person's medical records."
Bush is calling, in his fiscal year 2004 budget proposal, for a 53% increase in "funding to help hospitals use information technology to keep better records, to share that information with doctors so that we can continue to improve patient safety," according to a White House-issued transcript of his remarks.
He does not specify any dollar amounts or say where the money will come from. On Friday, an HHS spokesperson was unable to provide any details.
Still, the organization that created Connecting for Health through a grant last fall, is thrilled with the attention to the issue.
"At a time when the president has the war on his hands, plus a whole host of domestic issues he is dealing with, including prescription drugs for Medicare, we were taken by the fact that he was willing to take the time to say that interoperability and the need for standards are so crucial," says Peter Kerr, spokesperson for the New York-based Markle Foundation, which funds the coalition.
"President Bush's statement gives momentum to an interconnected future in healthcare," adds Russell Ricci, M.D., general manager of global healthcare industry services for IBM Corp., a Connecting for Health participant.