President's Budget Plan Takes First Step With IT Network


WASHINGTON — President Bush's 2006 budget plan includes initiatives to get providers to adopt standards-based, interoperable electronic health records systems.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is directing $14 million of this year's budget to jump-start regional collaborations that would assist health care providers in employing these types of systems. To continue these activities outside of AHRQ in 2006, the budget proposal includes a new $75 million account in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

Although primary care groups have shown much interest in a national information technology (IT) health care network, language in the budget isn't likely to directly affect the individual physician's office, Robert Tennant, senior policy advisor for the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), said in an interview.

“This will be targeted to the local health information networks that David J. Brailer [the federal coordinator for health IT] has been promoting. That's very different from promoting use in an individual practice,” Mr. Tennant said at the annual conference of the National Academy of Social Insurance.

The hope is these initiatives will produce a network to enhance patient care and encourage practices to spend the money on infrastructures that would link them to this type of network, Mr. Tennant said.

The fact that Dr. Brailer's office received funding means that this issue is on the president's radar screen, “considering that appropriations had eliminated funding for the program in 2005,” Bob Doherty, senior vice president for governmental affairs and public policy with the American College of Physicians, said in an interview with OB.GYN NEWS.

Primary care groups have been promoting the use of IT systems. Both are collaborating with contractors on a federal project to test financial incentives and technology support to improve care of patients with chronic disease. In 2004, the ACP released to Congress a plan for promoting a paperless system. According to the college, some of those ideas were recently incorporated into a bill introduced by Rep. John M. McHugh (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Charles Gonzales (D-Tex.) to encourage health care providers to adopt interoperable health care IT systems.

While the government has shown an interest in IT, Mr. Tennant noted the allocations in the 2006 budget proposal aren't nearly enough to promote widespread use, adding that “one of MGMA's member practices just spent $140 million for an IT system. That's more than what the entire budget allocates for the country.”

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