House Passes Health Technology Bill with Wilson Amendment
The House of Representatives today passed the Health Information Technology Promotion Act by a vote of 270-148. The legislation included an amendment offered by Congresswoman Heather Wilson in the Energy and Commerce Committee to improve health services for people with chronic conditions through health information technology, particularly in rural and underserved areas.
The Wilson Amendment strengthens the Health Information Technology Promotion Act, H.R. 4157. It would award grants to small physician practices in rural or underserved areas to improve the quality of care for people with chronic conditions. These grants would fund the purchase of health information technology, including computer software and hardware, and training. The amendment creates a two-year demonstration project and authorizes $5 million in funding for both fiscal years 2007 and 2008.
"Health Information Technology improves healthcare and protects patients," Wilson said. "Small practices need more access to technology and information."
Cost prevents many small and rural practices from accessing and exchanging important health data, because adequate information technology systems are expensive. The Center for Health System Change recently published a report concluding while more doctors are using technology, the cost is the still the greatest barrier for small practices. Even elementary systems capable of accessing a patient's medical history online costs more than $40,000 to purchase.
H.R. 4157 allows the donation of software and equipment to physicians, and creates standardized systems to allow the exchange of health information among health providers. This legislation would help facilitate electronic medical records, electronic prescribing, and telemedicine. The legislation codifies the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, an office established by executive order in 2004. The legislation assigns certain responsibilities to the office including standardization of information platforms so hospitals and physician offices can share important medical data. The legislation also includes strong privacy protections for medical information.
"Today we took a step forward in showing the medical community that Congress is serious about improving patient safety and quality through the use of technology, because it saves lives and saves money," said Wilson.