HIMSS calls for $25B health IT investment from Obama administration

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HIMSS appeals to Obama to invest in healthcare IT. Image Source: Associated Content

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Wednesday released a detailed report outlining specific priorities and recommendations for the Obama administration and 111th Congress to harness IT’s power to reform healthcare and stimulate the U.S. economy.

“President-elect Obama and U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary-designate Daschle have clearly indicated their interest in finding ways to cost-effectively evolve our healthcare system to include 21st century technology solutions that will help improve access, decrease costs and increase quality of healthcare for millions of Americans,” said Harry Greenspun, MD, chair of HIMSS Healthcare Transformation through Health IT (HTHIT) Workgroup and executive vice president and chief  medical officer at Perot  Systems’ healthcare group. “Our goal in releasing this report is to share the expertise and recommendations of the health IT community with policymakers to help ensure health IT policy proposals achieve maximum impact for consumers and the healthcare community.”

Among the recommendations in the HIMSS report, A Call for Action: Enabling Healthcare Reform Using Information Technology, include the following priority actions:

  • Invest a minimum of $25 billion in health IT to help non-governmental hospitals and physician practices adopt EMRs.  Additional funding should be allocated to mandate EMR adoption, provide EMRs for children and establish health IT Empowerment Zones.
  • Apply recognized standards and certified health IT products among all federally funded health programs by requiring that federal funding to assist providers and payors within these programs adopt health IT only be used for the purchase or upgrade of new health IT products that apply HITSP interoperability specifications and are certified by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT).
  • Expand Stark exemptions and anti-kickback safe harbors for EMRs to cover additional healthcare software and related devices that apply HITSP interoperability specifications, are CCHIT-certified, and allow for better coordination of care and information sharing among related providers and patients.
  • Codify HITSP as the National Standards Harmonization body responsible for collaborating with the public and private sector to achieve a widely accepted and useful set of standards to enable the widespread interoperability among healthcare software applications.
  • Codify a senior level health IT leader within the administration to oversee a national health IT strategy.
  • Authorize a federal advisory and coordinating body for health IT responsible for advising the administration on health IT initiatives throughout the country and coordinating standards harmonization through collaboration with HITSP and CCHIT.
  • Conduct a White House summit on healthcare reform through IT to develop consensus and propose solutions to critical, national health IT issues within the context of the larger national healthcare reform effort.

“While most experts in the health IT profession recognize that the long-term benefits of moving towards a more modernized healthcare delivery system will vastly outweigh the short-term costs, we also recognize that these short-term costs are being proposed during a time of significant economic uncertainty,” said H. Stephen Lieber, HIMSS president and CEO. “We are convinced that moving forward with health IT now will not only be critical to ensuring sustainable positive change for consumers, but will also provide an immediate economic stimulus in the way of new jobs across the healthcare sector.”