Senate Healthcare Reform Bill's IT Provisions Make Sense - InformationWeek

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Government // Leadership
Commentary
11/30/2009
04:20 PM
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Senate Healthcare Reform Bill's IT Provisions Make Sense

As the Senate begins debating its healthcare reform bill, there's several health IT related provisions that aren't likely to stir a lot of emotion on the Senate floor, but deserve some attention.

As the Senate begins debating its healthcare reform bill, there's several health IT related provisions that aren't likely to stir a lot of emotion on the Senate floor, but deserve some attention.Among the proposals of the Senate's "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" is the call to develop interoperable and secure standards to facilitate the electronic enrollment of individuals in federal and state health and human services programs.

Those standards and protocols would be developed in consultation with the U.S. department of health's health IT policy and standards committees, which are currently entrenched in ironing out the details of the "meaningful use" requirements for healthcare providers to eventually cash in on the government's health IT stimulus programs.

A move to eliminate from the get-go any paperwork involved with individuals enrolling in new government health plans seems like a no-brainer, especially if the legislation aims to curtail costs.

Under the provision, enrollees also would be able to manage their eligibility information electronically from home.

States and local government entities could also apply for federal grants to help implement standards-based electronic enrollment systems.

When it comes to funding, among other health IT-related grants proposed in the Senate bill is a provision for one or more demonstration projects on the use of health IT in skilled nursing homes.

Skilled nursing facilities were among the various types of healthcare providers excluded from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's $20 billion health IT stimulus program.

While ARRA fails to provide rewards to nursing homes for "meaningful use" of health IT, the Senate's healthcare reform bill proposes getting the ball rolling in at least studying how IT can be used to improve patient care in those settings.

The demonstration projects "shall take into consideration the special needs of residents of skilled nursing facilities who have cognitive impairment, including dementia."

In addition to demonstration projects for the use of health IT in skilled nursing facilities, the bill supports the use of health IT in the management of chronically ill patients in their own homes--especially to reduce hospitalizations.

The bill proposes the use of health IT "in providing health home services and improving service delivery and coordination of care across the continuum," including the use of wireless patient technology, home telehealth technology and chronic disease registries for patients at high-risk of hospitalization.

While the Senate floor will surely get heated during debate about new government-run health programs and the "true" cost of healthcare overhaul, the health IT provisions seem the least controversial and the most sensible proposals no matter how you view the rest of the 2,074 page bill.

What do you think?



Blue Cross of Northeast Pennsylvania, the University of Louisville School of Medicine, and a range of large and small healthcare providers are using mobile apps to improve care and help patients manage their health. Find out how. Download the report here (registration required).

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