Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, last week introduced a bill that would establish an Office of Health Information Technology (IT) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. According to the bill, incompatible computer systems and inconsistent technology are holding back the full potential and efficiency of the healthcare system. The bill also requires adoption of clinical and data standards at the federal level within two years.
For the private sector, standards would be voluntary and must be developed in "collaboration with private sector stakeholders," according to a press release from Gregg's office. The bill also would limit federal health IT purchases to systems that are standards-compliant. Recipients of federal health IT funds would be required to purchase systems that meet federal standards. In addition, the bill provides funds for creating Local Health Information Infrastructures and offers grants for buying interoperable health IT systems.