As President-elect Barack Obama met with congressional leaders to discuss his multibillion-dollar stimulus package this week, healthcare providers clamored for a significant portion of the funding to be used for healthcare information technology, which some say will improve the nations troubled economy.
The new Congress must now consider Obamas recovery packagewhich the Associated Press reported could total about $775 billionand determine how the funding will be apportioned. Premier, the healthcare alliance that serves more than 2,100 not-for-profit hospitals and health systems, would like to see Congress allocate about $1.2 billion per year for a couple of years, in addition to grant money to hospitals with greater needs, according to Blair Childs, Premiers spokesman.
There has been a lot of talk about HIT being includedwe think thats a really good idea, Childs said, adding that it serves two purposes: to stimulate the economy and provide a long-term benefit for healthcare. This is a time when hospitals are clearly stressed, and this will help to address some of that stress. Thats whats motivating us, he said. Childs said he has heard estimates of between $15 billion and $25 billion as a desired amount to be allocated for HIT.
Meanwhile, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executiveswhich represents about 1,300 healthcare chief information officers nationwidesent a letter to HHS Secretary-designate Tom Daschle that supported Obamas goal of adopting electronic health records. The group also outlined seven recommendations related to health IT, which included establishing a senior-level position within the Obama administration to oversee a national health IT strategy; authorizing funds for a public-private sector body or set of bodies to advise, coordinate and facilitate health IT-related initiatives within and between the federal government and private sector; and supporting the development of a nationwide, interoperable health IT infrastructure to identify and adopt standards and policies.
In the short term, we urge inclusion of recommended IT infrastructure improvements in the economic stimulus package as a means to make an early down payment on health reform, CHIME President and Chief Executive Officer Richard Correll wrote.
But the AARP cautioned that having computerized systems alone will not be enough to fill the healthcare systems technology needs.
Ultimately, youre going to need to have some kind of positive reimbursement or support to encourage people to actually use the HIT systems, said John Rother, director of legislation and public policy at the AARP. The point is not just to have the equipment in the office. The point is to use it to improve healthcareand thats going to be a longer-term issue. with Matthew DoBias
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