The purchase, implementation and use of health information technology in hospitals and physician offices has become a bigger issue than reimbursement among practicing doctors, but debate over what role Congress should play threatens to delay any kind of legislative intervention, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, told reporters this morning in Washington.
In a wide-ranging discussion that outlined several congressional health policy agenda items, Pallone said health IT remains a top concern on Capitol Hill but that few lawmakers expect a bill to move anytime soon.
Pallone, who represents the healthcare-heavy central portion of New Jersey, said that he favors federal grant dollars or even a bump in the reimbursement rate as possible ways the government could help to defray implementation costs. But funding issues helped to scuttle a health IT bill last year, and there are signs the same thing could happen again.
Last month, the American Hospital Association released a study that showed financial constraints to be the greatest barrier to health IT adoption. Among the hospitals surveyed in 2006, the median capital spending per bed for health IT was $5,556, according to the report, though it warns that it is a snapshot of 1-year spending and does not include multiyear upgrades or additional costs. Operating costs are even greater, according to the AHA study, amounting to $12,060 per bed. That means a 200-bed hospital can expect to invest $1.1 million in capital for health IT and spend another $2.4 million on related operating costs.
There has to be some new source of funding, Pallone said, adding that the both he and the industry very much believes that whatever the investment, (theyll) reap the benefits in the future. -- by Matthew DoBias