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Biden: Health IT Savings Will Be Bigger Than Projected

Vice President says e-health records will save more money than Congressional Budget Office has projected.

When electronic health records are fully implemented in 2014, along with health information exchanges and other technologies associated with healthcare delivery, the cost of healthcare will be significantly less than the Congressional Budget Office has calculated, vice president Joe Biden said.

"We believe there's a lot more savings in the healthcare bill that we passed. The CBO, they only count what they can feel and taste. They only count what's done before, and so we think there's a lot of additional savings to be had," Biden said.

Biden spoke at a press conference Tuesday to announce that 15 so-called Beacon Communities will receive $220 million in American Recovery And Reinvestment Act awards to help lay the groundwork for emerging health IT development, an effort that's expected to create tens of thousands of jobs.

The vice president said it's difficult for the Congressional Budget Office to score the financial impact of projects that haven't been implemented, but the signs are that they'll be much more saving as a result of technology implementation further down the road.

In March, the Budget Office estimated that the healthcare reform bill would cost $940 billion over the first 10 years and reduce the deficit by $138 billion during that period. In the second 10 years, from 2020 to 2029, it will reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion.

The vice president didn't have specific figures, but he said hospitals and other healthcare facilities are projecting millions of dollars of savings in a range of areas including fewer emergency room visits, less paper processing and greater efficiencies from e-health records. The result will be greater cost savings that the CBO's numbers don't reflect, Biden said.

The money awarded will help the Beacon Communities build their technological infrastructure and exchange capabilities. The funds will be channeled through the Beacon Community Cooperative Agreement Program and will go toward technology to support new models of care with the aim of increasing efficiencies, reducing costs and improving healthcare outcomes.

For example, the Western New York Clinical Information Exchange in Buffalo, N.Y., will receive $16 million to utilize clinical decision support tools such as registries, point-of-care alerts and reminders, and innovative telemedicine solutions to improve primary and specialty care for diabetic patients, decrease preventable emergency room visits, hospitalizations and re-admissions for patients with diabetes, congestive heart failure and pneumonia. The funds will also help improve immunization rates among diabetic patients.

The Community Services Council of Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla., will get $12 million dollars to leverage community partnerships with hospitals, providers, payers and government agencies to expand a community-wide care coordination system, which will increase appropriate referrals for cancer screenings, decrease unnecessary specialist visits and with telemedicine increase access to care for patients with diabetes.

Another recipient, the Louisiana Public Health Institute, New Orleans, La., received $13 million, to reduce racial health disparities and improve control of diabetes and smoking cessation rates by linking technically isolated health systems, providers, and hospitals; and empower patients by increasing their access to personal health records.

For her part, Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius said the grants will go to communities that have shown great potential for using health information technology to improve health outcomes.

"We expect the communities with the winning proposals to show the providers throughout the rest of the country how health IT can improve the health and care of the patients they serve," Sebelius said. "With these new grants we’re closer to the day when every patient and every provider can electronically share accurate private and secure health data [and closer] to the day when health IT is a growing industry that creates thousands of jobs across the country," Sebelius said.

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