05.17.07

Congress Passes Whitehouse Health IT Measure in 2008 Budget Blueprint

Reserve Fund Allows Spending to Support Health IT, Best Practices

Washington, D.C. - As the nation recognizes National Health IT Week 2007, Congress today approved a fiscal 2008 budget resolution that included a measure proposed by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) to support health information technology and accepted best practices in clinical settings.

"Health information technology is a crucial piece of the health care puzzle," said Whitehouse. "I am encouraged - and proud - that this budget will provide this critical support for the adoption of modern health information technology and accepted best practices in clinical settings."

Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, joined Stabenow during the committee's consideration of the budget in March to introduce a deficit-neutral reserve fund to provide incentives for the adoption of health information technology within the medical community, and payments based on adherence to clinical protocols identified as best practices.

The reserve fund will allow the chairman of the Budget Committee to adjust funding levels within Congress's overall budget to allow for increased spending on health IT and best practices, so long as that spending does not increase the deficit. The Budget Committee approved the amendment unanimously.

Up to 100,000 lives are lost in the United States each year due to avoidable medical errors. Electronic medical records can reduce mistakes such as adverse drug events by automating and standardizing procedures; improving the coordination of chronic care and bio-surveillance; and making hospitals and physicians' offices more efficient.

Currently, only 25 percent of hospitals and 20 percent of physician offices utilize electronic medical records. The RAND Corporation has estimated that widespread implementation of effective electronic medical record systems could save $81 billion or more annually.

Whitehouse is a cosponsor of a Senate resolution, passed Tuesday by unanimous consent, recognizing the value of information technology in health care and officially designating the week beginning May 14, 2007 as National Health Information Technology Week (S. Res. 202). The week provides a forum for public and private organizations who support health information technology to gather, share ideas, and communicate with members of Congress in an effort to raise awareness about the importance of health IT.

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