Congress could spend $20 billion on healthcare IT over the next few years, according to an economic recovery bill released last week by the House Appropriations Committee.
Under the bill, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONCHIT) in the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) would receive $2 billion and “$20 billion overall for health[care] information technology to prevent medical mistakes, provide better care to patients and introduce cost-saving efficiencies,” according to the committee report accompanying the draft, reported Government Health IT.
The Senate is expected to draft its own language for the health IT portion of the bill.
At a Capitol Hill hearing on healthcare IT, attendees focused the need to give doctors incentives for going beyond acquiring EHR systems and other forms of healthcare IT to actually using them, according to Government Health IT.
“Linking the implementation of [healthcare IT] to health system reforms is essential,” Jack Cochran, MD, executive director of the Permanente Federation, told the Senate committee. “To promote appropriate and clinically effective uses of [healthcare IT] over the mere acquisition of technology, the secretary of HHS should develop and implement measures for connectivity and data exchange, as well as measures for EHR-based quality reporting.”
Janet Corrigan, president and CEO of the National Quality Forum, added that healthcare IT “investments and incentives should be tied to the effective use of [its] to improve patient safety, outcomes and experience of care” rather than linking them to simply having the technology.
However, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who presided over the hearing, expressed concern that healthcare IT could be “another technology boondoggle” like past IT failures in the federal government, according to Government Health IT.