Monday, June 6, 2011

Everyone agrees on healthcare IT

There may be contention between political parties and among voters and healthcare organizations about healthcare reform, but no one seems to disagree about the need for improved information technology (IT) in the healthcare industry. On June 2, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), which was founded by senators on both sides of the aisle, announced the creation of a new task force on healthcare delivery system reform and health IT. The task force is to be led by former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle and Bill Frist.

The task force has already issued a publication, entitled "The Role of Health IT in Supporting Health Care Transformation: Building a Strong Foundation for America’s Health Care System," which recommends, according to a press release issued by the BPC, "improving coordination and alignment of health IT and reform efforts to identify opportunities for synergy and develop shared solutions for common needs; integrating lessons learned from early implementation efforts associated with large-scale programs to address unanticipated needs and issues; and enhancing strategies for engaging consumers in reform efforts through the use of health IT and emerging consumer technologies."

To create greater uniformity of electronic transactions and information, the ACA has already added new provisions to Social Security Act (SSA) Sec. 1173, which sets forth standards for health information transactions and data elements.

The BPC's report also recommends increased focus and public-private sector collaboration on the expansion of implementation assistance and workforce training, espcially for small practices and hospitals serving rural and underserved populations. Finally, the task force is recommending collaboration on the achievement of the well-designed exchange of privacy-protected health information.

An introduction to the report on the BOC website states that, "There is general bipartisan consensus that effective utilization of health IT is the foundation of a modern and sustainable health care system." Better health IT will create, according to a forward in the report, insurance market reforms, delivery system and payment reforms, and an increased focus on prevention and wellness programs. It is also promoted as an important fix to the problems of rising costs, eroding coverage, and inconsistent quality.

In the BPC press release, Senator Daschle is quoted as saying, "An important first step in the transformation of our health care system is the continued development and widespread use of health IT....Our recommendations show that, if used wisely, health IT promises smarter, coordinated and more efficient health care. We have compiled a top-notch group of experts on our Task Force who will develop a careful plan, which we hope will build on existing efforts and capitalize on health IT’s great potential to improve quality and reduce costs."

A comprehensive analysis of the Affordable Care Act, including the full text of the law and additional information on health reform implementation, and other recent developments in employee benefits, is available here.


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