Gingrich gives Senate big health IT to-do list

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Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich recently delivered testimony to the U.S. Senate covering his vision of top priorities in assisting health IT towards a healthcare transformation in the United States. His vision of the future includes universal health coverage, consumer empowerment through information access, a “culture of health” driven by early detection and prevention, and interoperable health IT.
   
Gingrich sees the construction of a national network information network for healthcare as vitally important. In his testimony, he compared the need for a national, interconnected system to the original call for a national highway system nearly 50 years ago by President Eisenhower. Such a system “could electronically monitor and automatically alert officials in an extreme disaster,” his testimony states.
   
Another essential ingredient for success, according to Gingrich, is a reimbursement system based more on quality outcomes. “Hospitals and providers that deliver better care are for the most part reimbursed at the exact same rate as those who provide poorer care,” Gingrich wrote, adding that the current payments system essentially promotes an “over utilization of resources” which as the “perverse” impact of rewarding “a hospital or physician because they can bill for additional services.” Gingrich also noted his belief that the government should do its best to drive adoption by boosting reimbursement for health IT adoption much more so than is currently done.
   
A couple of recent bills have been put forward that call for exceptions to Stark and anti-kickback laws to ease the process by which healthcare organizations can provide physicians with health IT systems such as electronic health records. Gingrich stated his belief that these exemptions are the correct course of action and would allow hospitals and other entities to “utilize their existing IT infrastructures to provide the hardware, software, connectivity, and support to their community physicians, clinics, and rural hospitals.”
   
The former Speaker also took Congress to task over its lack of progress in passing into law any federal legislation regarding health IT. While they’re at it, according to Gingrich, lawmakers should make moves to resolve the interoperability issues facing data standards for health IT.