Medical IT in the Oval Office

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Healthcare IT is gaining the attention of the White House.

In his State of the Union address in late January, President Bush called to computerize healthcare records and use information technology to reduce medical errors. "By computerizing health records, we can avoid dangerous medical mistakes, reduce costs and improve care," he said.

And in a radio address a few days later, the president backed up that commitment, announcing his budget request for fiscal 2005 will include $100 million - a doubling over 2004 - for projects to adopt healthcare IT.

"We can control health care costs and improve care by moving American medicine into the information age," Bush said in the Jan. 24th radio address. "This would encourage the replacement of handwritten charts and scattered medical files with a unified system of computerized records. By taking this action, we would improve care, and help prevent dangerous medical errors, saving both lives and money."

In the name of safer, more effective care, the President also proposed an increase of $5 million, for a total of $60 million, to applied research and demonstration projects dedicated to eliminating medical errors and improving patient safety. Further, this year, the president also fulfilled a commitment to double the budget of the National Institutes of Health to $27.3 billion, dramatically increasing medical research funded by NIH.

While I'm not a proponent of government getting too deep into healthcare, nor recommending IT strategy, I see this support on a national level as a positive move to propel healthcare IT development and investment - and raise the national consciousness. The added funds can only help to improve workflow, efficiency and quality of care and reduce cost. Progress toward standardization and technical infrastructure will move us closer to the electronic health record - allowing care anytime, anywhere (and this I am a proponent of!).