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Senators Clinton And Frist Promote Health IT Bill

Legislation establishes health IT standards to reduce health-care costs and improve efficiency.

Two big-name political rivals set aside their various differences on Thursday to promote an issue both strongly support -- the adoption of health IT.

At a press conference at George Washington University Hospital in D.C., U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) introduced the Health Technology to Enhance Quality Act of 2005.

The bill -- the fifth introduced in Congress this year promoting the adoption of health IT -- pushes to create an "interoperable health IT system" through the adoption of standards that will help reduce costs, enhance efficiency, and improve overall patient care.

The bipartisan bill also aims to elevate the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, putting it on a par with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Under the legislation, federal spending on health IT would be coordinated through the office of national health IT coordinator, which is held by Dr. David Brailer. That position was created last year under an executive order from President Bush, who also last year established a goal for most Americans to have electronic health records by 2014.

Among other provisions, the bill would provide $125 million in grants for regional and local consortiums building interoperable health information exchanges. The bill also calls for a study of state privacy laws to determine how they may impede the exchange of health information within and between states.

Last month in the House of Representatives, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) introduced the 21st Century Health Information Act of 2005 (H.R. 2234), a bipartisan bill also promoting health IT adoption and grants.

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