Leavitt Calls for Development of Standards for Health Care Information Technology Systems
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt on Monday said that the federal government and health care industry must make a "forced march commitment" to develop national standards for health care information technology systems, CQ HealthBeat reports. At an annual American Hospital Association meeting in Washington, D.C., Leavitt raised concerns that "if we do not act and do not act soon," the health care system will become a "last vendor standing" marketplace in which hospitals lose hundreds of millions of dollars because of incompatible health care IT systems. Leavitt said that the development of health care IT standards is "difficult, it's time-consuming, it's expensive," but he added that "it's absolutely essential" that the process begin over the next several months.
He did not provide a timeline for the completion of the development of health care IT standards or comment on whether Congress should establish a deadline. However, Leavitt said that the federal government could serve as "a convener of stature" to encourage the health care industry to reach agreement on health care IT standards and serve in a "soil testing" role to help ensure that investments in health care IT systems are not wasted. In addition, the federal government could serve as an "early and certain adopter" of health care IT standards, he said.
National Governors Association Chair and Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D), who also spoke at the AHA meeting, criticized proposed reductions in federal funds for Medicaid included in the House and Senate budget resolutions in relation to health care IT. Warner said that the proposed reductions would limit the ability of states to implement health care IT in their Medicaid programs. In addition, he said that the federal government should invest Medicaid "savings" in health care IT or programs to encourage individuals to save more for long-term care (CQ HealthBeat, 5/2).