Biden Touts Recovery Act For Improving Healthcare

Report released by the Vice President offers examples of how federal investment in health IT is expected to save billions in medical costs and improve patient care.

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In Concord, N.C. the Southern Piedmont Community Care Plan will use its $15.7 million award to increase the number of patients with well-controlled blood pressure and lipids and reduce the number of children with asthma that end up in the ED. The report noted the award will also fund electronic health record (EHR) management and telemedicine equipment, as well as develop an indexed image repository to avoid unnecessary imaging such as duplicate x-rays. Work at the Southern Piedmont Community Care Plan could translate to 14,000 people with reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes and two percent fewer childhood asthma patients in the ED each year.

"If these gains were achieved nationally, it could mean millions of people would have reduced risks of heart attack and stroke, and could reduce the number of ED visits associated with complications from childhood asthma and other chronic diseases," the report said.

Another example is the Western New York Clinical Information Exchange in Buffalo, N.Y., which is using its $16.1 million award to improve the quality of care provided to chronic disease patients and to reduce costs associated with avoidable hospitalizations and ED visits. The Recovery Act funds will purchase clinical decision support tools such as registries, point-of-care alerts, and new telemedicine solutions. The goal is for 5,000 diabetics to achieve improved control of their blood sugar and other levels, averting as many as 2,300 complications. The program, the report said, will also seek to reduce by 15% the number of ED visits, hospitalizations, and re-admissions for individuals with diabetes and congestive heart failure, saving approximately $1.1 million per year starting in 2012.

"If these improvements were generalized nationally, approximately 360,000 diabetic Americans could be affected," the report said.

The report also noted that the government's investment in broadband expansion is "a central component to addressing America's healthcare."

The use of broadband can reduce the burden and cost of traveling by using telemedicine, and can help physicians constantly monitor patients. The report cited the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has dramatically decreased unnecessary hospitalizations through a wide-ranging effort to help veterans manage chronic conditions at home.

"Hospital use was decreased 25% overall, and 50% for patients in highly rural areas, by linking 32,000 chronically ill veterans with healthcare providers and care managers through video phones, digital cameras, and messaging and tele-monitoring," the report said.

ARRA has also provided funds to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support groundbreaking research in the work surrounding human genome sequencing, as well as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and autism, said the report.

"The number of complete human genomes anticipated to be sequenced in the next few years is expected to dwarf, by 50 times or so, the number of complete human genomes that have been sequenced to date," the report said. "At the same time, NIH is pursuing multiple avenues of bringing down dramatically the cost to sequence a genome. The goal is to sequence an entire human genome for $1,000, a cost that now exceeds 50 times that amount."

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