Electronic Medical Records Could Save United States $140 Billion, HHS Secretary Thompson Says
A national electronic medical records system could save the United States at least $140 billion per year, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said on Thursday at a health information technology summit sponsored by the department, CongressDaily reports. In a speech to a group of health care industry leaders and representatives from technology companies, Thompson promised that the federal government would implement a national EMR system in fewer than 10 years (Rovner, CongressDaily, 5/7). Bush last week promoted a proposal to establish the national EMR system and issued an executive order to create a national health information technology office within HHS. The office of the national health information technology coordinator, expected to begin operations within three months as part of the HHS Office of the Secretary, will coordinate and evaluate current and future department IT efforts and establish technical standards to allow physicians and hospitals to share EMRs and ensure patient privacy. Bush said that the office will establish the technical standards by the end of the year (California Healthline, 4/28). At the summit, Thompson announced a series of advances in the development of such standards and in other areas of IT:
- HHS and other federal agencies will adopt 15 additional standards from the Consolidated Health Informatics initiative to allow them to share clinic health information electronically.
HL7, an international organization that establishes voluntary health standards, on Thursday with the support of HHS announced a model and standards for EMRs.
- The medical vocabulary called SNOMED CT, developed by the American College of Pathologists, on Thursday became available for download at no cost from the HHS National Library of Medicine.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) called a national EMR system "a no-brainer," adding, "The health care system is the least savvy and technologically advanced of our sectors." According to House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health Chair Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.), the implementation of a national EMR system that ensures patient privacy "is the key to whether the health care system moves forward or back." Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said that the government should begin to use EMRs in 2005 to track Medicare beneficiaries who receive "welcome to Medicare" physicals (CongressDaily, 5/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.