Health Information Technology: The Time Is Now

By September 12, 2006General

In several weeks, lawmakers will conclude their work and return home to campaign for the November elections. But before doing so, there are three issues of great importance to America’s manufacturing community on which it should act.

One extremely important priority is to open more areas of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to environmentally sound energy exploration and development, as I have written about in this column before. A second priority is to extend and enhance the R&D credit, which expired last December 31. These bills are extremely important to the millions of people who make things in America and to the health of our economy.

But there is also a third important priority that deserves action before the end of the 109th Congress – health information technology, or health IT. The rising cost of health care is a national crisis, borne primarily by business, and a big part of the problem is that the system is paper based, highly-inefficient and prone to error. Surveys of our members consistently show health care costs as one of their greatest challenges.

The House in July passed H.R. 4175, the Health Information Technology Promotion Act. The bill must be reconciled with similar legislation that passed the Senate in 2005 (S. 1418). These bills would establish a national strategy for facilitating health IT, which along with value-based purchasing incentives, could help drive improvements in the quality of care, increased efficiency, greater interoperability and ultimately, more affordable health care. While we believe the best solutions on health IT will come from the private sector, this legislation is needed to facilitate those solutions.

I urge Congress to name conferees and to make it a priority to consolidate these two measures into a single bill that can be presented to President Bush for his signature.

Manufacturers learned long ago that technology can serve as a catalyst towards greater integration, higher efficiencies and zero tolerance for error. Health information technology will lower health costs, improve health care delivery, increase access to health care trends and create a more transparent marketplace for business and individual purchasers in order to develop an increasingly consumer-directed health care system.