Health IT bill would create new private agency

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U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) unveiled legislation aimed at broadening health IT use and aiding healthcare quality efforts. Whitehouse said in a statement that he views the United States health system as being beset by several overlapping problems, one of them being a continued reliance on paper-based electronic records which bog down the exchange of essential patient information, which in turn only increases the chance of medical errors. Other things on Whitehouse’s to-do list include standardization of more efficient procedures and improving provider compensation.

In his first term, Whitehouse plans to introduce three separate pieces of legislation to ease these healthcare woes. The National Health Information Technology and Privacy Advancement Act of 2007 would establish a private, non-profit corporation tasked with developing a national, interoperable, secure health IT system to help bring capabilities of IT to all participants within the healthcare system.

Such a system could help reduce dangerous, unnecessary medical errors, cut costs, and improve the quality of care Americans receive. No national infrastructure now exists, and most local healthcare providers can't afford to build a system from scratch.

Whitehouse told the Providence Journal that much of the work tasked to the would-be new private corporation would be the same that is now assigned to the federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. However, he believes that office does not have the proper resources and the leadership to be as effective as it should in addressing health IT adoption issues.

Whitehouse also will introduce the Quality Reform Expansion and Savings Act of 2007 that would create two-year federal grants for local organizations pursuing health quality reform in areas ranging from electronic record-keeping, to early prevention and detection of illness, to efforts to treatment.

Also, the Improved Medical Decision Incentive Act of 2007 would work to focus the healthcare reimbursement system on quality by allowing states to establish best practice guidelines for treating illnesses or conditions.