Former senators push health IT initiatives

February 8, 2012

A Washington, DC, think tank is pushing lawmakers to invest in healthcare information technology. Discover which influence-makers are involved-and what they’re recommending.

A think tank founded by former U.S. Senate majority leaders is urging Congress and the Obama administration to boost investment in health information technology (HIT) and interoperability.

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) Task Force on Delivery System Reform, led by former Senators Tom Daschle and Bill Frist, MD, released its recommendations January 27. The task force advocates gearing incentives and payments to the increased use of electronic health records (EHRs) and health information exchanges (HIEs) to improve care coordination by sharing data between organizations.

To accelerate adoption of HIEs, the task force recommends that the next EHR meaningful use phase reward physicians for “more robust exchange of standards-based data across multiple settings.”

Additionally, the task force calls for an expansion of education and implementation assistance programs, such as regional extension centers, to help providers achieve meaningful use-with a particular focus on small physician practices and community hospitals and clinics that deliver care to rural and underserved populations.

“To deliver high-quality, cost-effective care, a physician or hospital needs good information,” said Frist, a 12-year Republican senator from Tennessee, in a statement. “Data about patients [have] to flow across primary care physicians, hospitals, labs, and anywhere that patients receive care.”

Frist is a thoracic surgeon whose family founded the Hospital Corporation of America; he currently writes and speaks about global health. Daschle, who preceded Frist as Senate majority leader, is an author and advocate for universal healthcare and the single-payer system.

The task force’s recommendations were based on literature reviews and interviews with high-performing healthcare organizations, according to the BPC.

“There is strong bipartisan support for [H]IT and for moving away from a payment model that largely focuses on volume-rewarding providers for doing more-rather than on quality outcomes or value,” Daschle, a former Democratic senator from South Dakota, also said in a statement.

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