Federal Support Needed for Data Standards, Technology, Health Affairs Articles State
An article in the current issue of Health Affairs calls for a standardized national clinical data system and advocates government action to develop standards and provide funding for technology adoption. Electronic medical records "have reached a state of technical maturity that makes them an essential component of a modern patient care system," and vendor competition and technical advances should reduce the cost of the technology, according to the article. As clinical support becomes integrated with EMRs, they are "likely to evolve from a digital version of today's paper chart into a navigational system for the care team," but the cost of implementing this technology and the lack of standards among available systems has slowed adoption. The article recommends that the federal government provide financial and technical assistance for clinical system development and establish a standards group to create mandates that health care organizations can adopt within "the normal course of their business cycle." In addition, Congress should prioritize the creation of EMR standards for clinical data sharing based on common clinical terminology and work to ensure interoperability among EMR systems so that hospitals can share systems with physicians' office practices, according to the article (Goldsmith et al., Health Affairs, July/August 2003).
An accompanying article in Health Affairs calls for the federal government to establish a revolving loan program to fund health care IT investment as part of an effort to "jump-start IT infrastructure development." Under the program, the federal government would contribute $800 million a year for at least five years, with states providing another $200 million annually in matching funds. States would distribute the funds to public-private health IT corporations, and these local, not-for-profit groups would administer loans for IT projects (Coye/Bernstein, Health Affairs, July/August 2003).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.