Senate approves health IT amendment

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The Stabenow-Whitehouse amendment moves health IT adoption forward. Source: Health Care Information Technology  

The U.S. Senate Budget Committee voted Thursday to approve a bipartisan amendment, sponsored by U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., which creates a reserve fund supporting widespread adoption of health IT and accepted best practices in clinical settings.

Legislators hope the measure, cosponsored by Senators Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., will improve health IT, for example, by creating better-integrated records for service members returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

 “Health IT cuts costs and saves lives – but we’re not investing enough to realize those extraordinary benefits,” Whitehouse said.  “I hope making health IT – especially initiatives supporting the young men and women now returning from war – a priority in our budget will help encourage greater investments and speedier reforms.”

An interoperable, nationwide health information infrastructure could drastically improve patient care, by giving doctors on-the-spot information and data to support diagnoses and other decisions; preventing avoidable medical errors; connecting doctors, pharmacies, and hospitals to allow medical records to be transferred electronically; and allowing healthcare facilities to track inpatients’ recovery progress, according to Whitehouse.

The Stabenow-Whitehouse amendment creates a deficit-neutral reserve fund to accommodate legislation that provides incentives or other support for adoption of modern IT to improve quality and protect privacy in healthcare, or for payments that are based on adherence to accepted clinical protocols identified as best practices, according to a release from Whitehouse’s office.

Reserve funds allow the chairman of the Budget Committee to adjust the budget resolution when certain legislation is passed, to accommodate revenue and spending levels included in the new legislation.

The measure also places special emphasis on efforts now underway by the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration to create seamless, interoperable electronic health records for service members transitioning from active duty service to veteran status.

“This system ensures that critical diagnostic and treatment information is available, improving the quality of care available to military members returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly those who are severely wounded,” Whitehouse said.