HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson at a telephone press conference today to ballyhoo the upcoming July 21 announcement of a Bush Administration plan to boost health information technology said HHS would make "several key announcements" that would provide impetus for changing healthcare IT in America.
Thompson did not specify what those policy initiatives would be, but he did stress speed of action and the support of President Bush.
"We're moving a lot faster than any of you out there could ever have projected or predicted six months ago," said Thompson. "It's still not fast enough."
Thompson said Bush was "somewhat surprised" at how fast the government was moving.
"I had a meeting with him Wednesday and told him we're going to accelerate even more so."
Thompson is slated to speak to a gathering of national healthcare leaders in Washington at what the administration is billing as a "secretarial summit" that will kick off a three-day meeting of the national health information infrastructure conference July 21-23.
Thompson described Medicare as the"800-pound gorilla" of healthcare payers and said the government will do its part do develop reimbursement mechanisms to help fund IT expansion.
"It really pays us dollars to use the technology, that's why the Congress and the department are pushing for it," Thompson said.
David Brailer, M.D., the national coordinator for health information technology, joined Thompson at the press briefing. Brailer is set to speak right after Thompson at the July 21 meeting and is scheduled to unveil his plan for IT promotion then.
Today, Brailer repeated remarks from earlier speeches that office-based physicians can play an important, pump-priming role in raising the IT standards of a community. Brailer said if physicians adopt the systems, hospitals likely would follow their lead.
Brailer said a key barrier to implementing the systems at the small-group practice level is the high risk of failure.
Brailer said another government role, aside from increased Medicare reimbursements for physicians who install IT systems, is through grants for demonstration projects and research into developing models of successful implementations to help reduce that risk.
"This is something that's central to what we're going to be talking about in the July 21 report," he said.
Brailer said the expectation is that there will be a "shared investment" in these systems by other payers and members of the private sector.
"There are many different parties that can come to support that as well," he said. "Many plans have started to do that, not as many as we want, but it's a good trend."