Sunday, November 2, 2008

Senator Kerry Opens Symposium

Senator John Kerry (D-MA) spoke to a packed audience at the Partners Center for Connected-Health Symposium held at the Conference Center at Harvard Medical School on October 27-28, 2008. The Senator told the audience that although the economy is facing difficult times, technology especially health IT is set to play an important role in the future.

The Senator pointed out that the country spends two trillion on healthcare every year which represents one out of every six dollars in the economy but this simply can’t continue. In order for the economy to forge ahead with new technologies and to keep our technological advantage, the country as a whole needs to be innovative, productive, creative, and competitive plus the right incentives need to be in place.

However, to move health IT forward, the first job is to move reforms through Congress which must include more funding for IT along with reforms for Medicare reimbursement. Senator Kerry has confidence that legislation will get passed perhaps as part of a comprehensive package that may include direct grants, tax incentives, and tax credits. A big problem is that on a good day in the current Congress, only about fifty one Senators vote but 60 votes are needed to get legislation passed. However, many changes are possible with the election and hopefully Congress will produce legislation with new investments in health IT.

The recent passage of the requirement for e-prescribing included in the Medicare legislation is a very good example of how e-prescribing will help to move health IT forward, according to Kerry. The state of Massachusetts is actively involved in e-prescribing and this means that pharmacists will no longer need to use two thirds of their time to check on prescriptions. Kerry foresees that many doctors in Massachusetts will be transitioning over to e-prescribing systems within the near future.