HealthTech Act introduced to boost health IT efforts

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This week U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced the Health Information Technology Act of 2007, also known as the “HealthTech Act,” designed to provide tax incentives and resources to offset the costs of investing in health IT.

“The result of using 19th century technology in a 21st century healthcare system is higher costs, increased errors and decreased quality of care,” said Stabenow. “It’s long past time that we fully utilize technology to make healthcare accessible and affordable for every family and business.”

The senators cited a recent report from the Institute of Medicine estimates that 44,000 to 98,000 Americans die annually from preventable medical errors, rather than their actual medical conditions. It is believed that health IT investment also has the potential to reduce administrative costs and make care more efficient through electronic health records.

“With an estimated 98,000 deaths per year resulting from medical errors caused by the continuing use of outdated technology, it has become obvious that we must bring American medicine up to speed,” said Snowe.

“Although business has widely adopted new practices and tools, too often medicine remains grossly inefficient, increasing the cost of healthcare for everyone. Our legislation addresses the needs of hospitals, healthcare centers and physicians in bringing technology on line quickly to save lives, improve healthcare delivery, and ultimately reduce costs,” added Snowe.

The HealthTech Act would create a 5-year, $4 billion grant program for IT and related services targeted at healthcare providers, including hospitals, physicians, nursing facilities, and community health and mental health centers. Nearly 20 percent of the funds would be available to rural areas or regions that are considered underserved. The bill also contains privacy provisions, including a requirement that patients be informed if their personal health record is inappropriately disclosed.

The bill would also seek to speed up depreciation of health IT software and hardware, and add to Medicare payments to providers who use health IT to improve care.