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Bush Promotes IT In Health Care On Visit To Cleveland Clinic

The administration also wants to increase funding for demo projects to test the effectiveness of IT in health care.
Newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt spent his first full day on the job Thursday with his boss, President Bush, touring medical center the Cleveland Clinic to discuss nationwide health-care reform and to see firsthand how IT can play a major role in that transformation.

For the past year, Bush has heavily promoted the nationwide adoption of health IT with a goal for most Americans to have interoperable electronic medical records within 10 years. He visited Cleveland with Leavitt and a number of others in government, including two members of Congress, to watch a demo of how new E-health records in the clinic's operating rooms are already improving patient care and efficiencies and helping reduce costs.

Bush's visit highlighted the important role IT has in his overall vision to reform the nation's health-care system, which also includes non-IT related measures such as speeding the time for generic drugs to hit the market and promoting health-spending accounts.

"We're here to talk about another way to save health, save costs in health care, and that's information technology," Bush told the Cleveland Clinic group. "Most industries in America have used information technology to make their businesses more cost-effective, more efficient, and more productive, and the truth of the matter is, health care hadn't."

"A major portion of the president's [health-care] agenda is to improve quality of care and management of costs to make health care affordable to all Americans," says Cleveland Clinic CIO Dr. C. Martin Harris, who, along with the Cleveland Clinic's CEO, hosted Bush's visit. Harris was appointed last year by Bush to a new federal commission charged by Congress to investigate how the country can best create a national health IT infrastructure. Earlier this month, Harris was sworn in as the only CIO on the 11-member Commission on Systems Interoperability, which has been charged with presenting to Congress by Oct. 31 a road map to wire the nation's health care.

Also joining Bush's entourage on the visit and the "town meeting" discussion afterward with a clinic physician and patient was Dr. David Brailer, who was appointed last spring by Bush to the newly created position of national health IT coordinator, whose sub-Cabinet job is to coordinate government agencies and private health providers in the creation and adoption of a national electronic health data infrastructure for the exchange of patient information.

As a show of support for health IT, Bush also said on Thursday that for his fiscal 2006 budget, he's seeking to increase funding to $125 million for demonstration projects that will help test the effectiveness of health IT and allow for widespread adoption in the health-care industry. In addition to that money for next year, the administration also said it's seeking an additional $50 million for fiscal year 2005 to support the use of health IT.