Kennedy proposes wireless, paperless healthcare system at HIMSS 2004

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Describing the American healthcare system as "a mess," U.S. Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI) yesterday unveiled new legislation that he says would reduce costs in the American healthcare industry and improve clinical outcomes for patients by 2015.

Kennedy outlined the bill during his keynote address at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's (HIMSS) 2004 annual conference in Orlando, Fla.

"Politicians like to say that we have the best healthcare system in the world, but we don't," Kennedy told more than 3,000 attendees. "What we have is the best medical talent in the world, the best technology in the world, and the best facilities in the world. The system in which they exist is a mess."

Kennedy calls the legislation "The Quality, Efficiency, Standards, and Technology for Healthcare Transformation Act (QUEST). It is intended to implement a fully wired, integrated, paperless healthcare system by 2015. The proposal includes measures designed to reorient financial incentives for providers to reward quality improvements.

The QUEST Act also would institute a number of structural changes to reduce duplication, eliminate errors from clinical support software, foster establishment of best practice guidelines for providers, give public health agencies a way to rapidly detect and respond to bio-terrorism threats, provide data to measure and repair provider performance, and cut down on administrative costs such as transcription and billing.

The plan would be phased in over 10 years.

 "We place unreasonable expectations on our doctors, nurses, and other providers," he told the HIMSS audience. "In most cases, the only source of outside information about a patient's history, current health status, specialist consults, medications, or any other vital information is the patients themselves."

 Kennedy expects to introduce the bill in this legislative session.