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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Health IT Pilot Programs Help Communities Achieve Health Care Improvements

Patient Care Information With A Stroke Of A Key

Vice President Joe Biden, along with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the selection of 15 communities across the country to serve as health information technology pilot programs through the Beacon Community Cooperative Agreement Program.

The program will include $220 million in grants to build and strengthen health IT infrastructure and health information exchange capabilities, including strong privacy and security measures for data exchange, within 15 communities. An additional $15 million will be provided for technical assistance to the communities and to evaluate the success of the program.

“Health information technology will make our health care system more efficient and improve care for every American,” Secretary Sebelius said. “The Beacon Community Program is a critical step forward as we work to expand the use of health information technology in hospitals and doctor’s offices across the country.”

Proponents of health information technology (HIT) often claim that the United States lags behind other developed countries when it comes to the use of electronic medical records (EMRs), physician order entry systems and personal health records in clinics and hospitals. For example, only about 17 percent of doctors and 8 percent to 10 percent of U.S. hospitals use EMRs.

Vice President Biden holds up article on health care privacy as HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius looks on.  Photo/CD Brown.
“These pioneering communities are going to lead the way in bringing smarter, lower-cost health care to all Americans through use of electronic health records. Because of their early efforts, doctors across the country will one day be able to coordinate patient care with the stroke of a key or pull up life-saving health information instantly in an emergency – and for the residents of these communities, that future is about to become a reality,” said Vice President Biden.

Thanks to the Recovery Act’s historic investment in health IT, we’re not only advancing the way health care is delivered in this country, we’re also building a whole new industry along with it – one that will shape our 21st Century economy for generations to come and employ tens of thousands of American workers”, added Biden, calling the program, "a big deal."

While many in the medical field are proponents of HIT, access to patients' records and concerns over privacy issues remain at the forefront of this technology. A report by the National Center of Policy Analysts cites security risks are a concern due to hackers, identity theft, unauthorized access and corruption (alteration) of patient data. The article also states making EMRs available to far-flung health care providers necessarily makes them more accessible to the world at large.

The fifteen communities awarded grants for the pilot program include Rochester, Minnesota's Mayo Clinic, Louisiana's Public Health Institute, and Providence Rhode Island's Quality Institute.

Top photo: Vice President Biden holds up The News Journal newspaper with an article titled Guilding Delaware's Doctor's Into A Paperless World.  Health Information Technology (HIT) will decrease the amount of patient info and records currently filed on paper. [Photo/CD Brown].

VP News
The Vice President is traveling to Brussels, Belgium, and Madrid, Spain, through Saturday, May 8, 2010 where he will consult with the leaders of NATO, the European Union, Belgium and Spain on critical strategic, security and economic issues, and he will deliver a major address to the European Parliament on U.S.-EU cooperation. 

He has written an op-ed piece for the International Herald Tribune titled Advancing Europe's Security.

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