A bill to encourage healthcare providers to adopt information technology passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The bill would fund $275 million in grants to providers over two years and establish a quality measurement system to award bonuses to providers for improving care with technology. It also would codify HHS' office of the national coordinator for health IT, created by presidential order last year, and authorize $5 million in grants in 2007 for demonstration projects integrating IT into medical education. The bill -- introduced Tuesday by Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) -- has not been scheduled for a Senate vote. It would authorize $125 million in grants in 2006 and $150 million in grants in 2007 to help hospitals, physicians and other providers implement IT.
Separately, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt told the Senate Budget Committee that the push for health IT initially should focus on developing interoperabilty standards. Without the assurance of system interoperability, providers may not be willing to invest in new technology, Leavitt said. -- by Tony Fong