Two former lawmakers plan to lead a nationwide effort to get electronic health records, e-prescribing tools and a host of other health information technology components into doctors offices, hospitals and in front of patientsand to do so in short order.
Former Rep. Nancy Johnson and former Sen. John Breaux are set to head Health IT Now!, a coalition of patient, clinical and business groups that plans to push for federal legislation that would pave the way to an interconnected health IT system.
The coalition wants to sway lawmakers this year to agree on a bill that codifies the government's commitment to health IT; offers federal grants and loans to providers; resolves privacy and professional licensure issues between state and federal laws; and focuses on consumer empowerment through patient education.
On Capitol Hill today, Breaux compared the promise of health IT to a wonder drug that could instantly save hundreds of thousands of lives. If it were a pill, he said, "People would say, 'Don't delay, give it to us immediately. Bring this to market just as soon as you can.' "
Former Michigan Gov. John Engler, president of the National Association of Manufacturersalso a coalition membercalled health IT a nonpartisan issue. Improving the healthcare system is something everyone can agree on, he said.
Johnson, former chairwoman of the Ways and Mean health subcommittee, could not attend the news briefing because of a congressional rule that bans for one year former lawmakers from lobbying in the Capitol building itself. Joel White, who was the staff director of the subcommittee under Johnson, is the coalitions executive director.