Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Support for the Stimulus Package

The potential impact of the stimulus package on healthcare IT was at the top of the agenda at the Steering Committee on Telehealth and Healthcare Informatics briefing held January 15th on Capitol Hill. In summary, the presenters stressed how additional funding would make it possible to effectively educate and train the health IT workforce, help urban hospitals operate more efficiently, greatly improve health IT across rural communities, and further support advanced networks. In addition, Claudia Williams, Director, Health Policy and Public Affairs, Markle Foundation, enforced the importance and necessity for having a sound policy to use as a framework for health IT.

Representatives Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Allyson Y. Schwartz (D-PA) stopped by the briefing to point out that there are certainly challenges to establishing comprehensive medical records. However, if the job is done right, enormous opportunities will be available to put the healthcare system in this country on the right track.

Representative David Wu (D-OR) emphasized the need to move forward with his legislation “10,000 Trained by 2010 Act” to support the growth of the health IT workforce by investing in more education and research. The bill is currently sitting in the Senate but according to Representative Wu, he is anxious to see the legislation passed as a standalone or included in another piece of legislation.

Don E. Detmer, MD, President & CEO AMIA said AMIA with 4000 members has been working very hard with Congressman Wu’s office on the legislation. Dr. Detmer stressed that we must invest not only in technology but we need to ensure that our workforce is poised to meet the challenges facing our healthcare system.

He told the attendees, “It is vital for all healthcare provider and related organizations to be able to find communications and information technology solutions in the coming years. This makes it essential for the U.S. have a workforce that is well trained and up-to-date on design, development, implementation, and use.”

David Liss, Vice President Government Affairs, New York Presbyterian Hospital, is looking at the stimulus funding from the hospital and the community level viewpoint and sees a number of benefits. NYP is affiliated with Columbia and Cornell and is proud to be held in high regard in the community.

As Liss told the attendees that through the “Heal New York” grant program, sharing is going on among the hospital and a group of more than 180 community physicians in the neighborhoods surrounding the hospital. In one project, seven members of the physicians group, Community Physicians of New York Presbyterian are piloting the electronic network linking NYP and CPNYP.

The stimulus would be a boon not only to the hospital but would also help the hospital hire more people and they in turn, would live and shop in the surrounding community. As a result, the community would have more jobs, more people, and be a more viable community. Immediate results would be shorter waiting times in the hospital emergency department with easier access to specialists.

In discussing Virginia’s health IT program, Michael Matthews, Senior Advisor to the Commonwealth of Virginia, Office of Health IT, pointed out how successful innovation grants in Virginia have been helping a number of regions throughout the state.

For example, CareSpark is addressing rural health disparities, CCNV a fully funded and has implemented EHR is live at 15 sites with pilot connectivity to public health services in Southside, the UVA telemedicine initiative identifies high risk poor pregnant woman to minimize pre-term labor, NOVARHIO provides access to patient medical histories in ERs, MedVirginia provides EMR adoption to free clinics, and Centra is the first outpatient EHR link to ACC’s outpatient cardiac registry.

Gary Bachula, Vice President, External Relations, Internet2, emphasized the importance for the stimulus package to support good investments in advanced networks. Bachula continued to report that Internet2 with 211 university members has to be able and ready at all times to deploy high bandwidth networks, do advanced applications, and collaborate with regional networks. He sees the need to connect not only but with academic medical centers and colleges in terms of research and education, but also with researchers at government agency looking for ways to deal with the huge amounts of data expected to be incorporated into the healthcare system in the coming years.

The Steering Committee briefings are produced by the HIMSS Foundation’s Institute for e-Health Policy. For more information on future briefings, contact Neal Neuberger, Executive Director for the Institute at neal@healthpolicy.org or go to the web site at www.e-healthpolicy.org.