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6/26/2008
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U.S. House Pushes For National E-Health Records

The bill, called the "PRO(TECH)T Act," would increase privacy protections and set national standards to exchange health information nationally.

A congressional subcommittee has passed a bill that encourages the adoption of health information technology (HIT).

The House subcommittee approved H.R. 6357 Wednesday. The bill must gain approval from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce before it can go to the floor for a vote. It calls for national adoption of HIT infrastructure and would provide incentives to doctors, hospitals, insurers, and the government to use electronic formats for health information.

The bill would require every U.S. citizen to have electronic health records by 2014 and it establishes privacy rules for those records. It would require information-keepers to notify patients in the event of security or privacy breaches.

"Your grocery store automatically knows what brand of chips you bought last year, but your cardiologist doesn't automatically know what prescriptions your family doctor prescribed for you yesterday," U.S. Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, said in an announcement.

Dingell, who chairs the Committee on Energy and Commerce, said electronic records would improve health care quality and cost. He said the legislation, called the "PRO(TECH)T Act" would increase privacy protections and set national standards to exchange health information nationally.

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., Chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, said: "Investing in HIT today will help make our health care system more efficient tomorrow, thereby lowering costs and saving lives."

The legislation would also make the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONCHIT) position permanent. The position falls under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Earlier this month, the Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on the issue to help fine-tune a draft presented by Democrats and Republicans.

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