Thursday, May 12, 2005

HR 2234-Medical Records

Electronic medical records the goal of Murphy's bill
Thursday, May 12, 2005By Maeve Reston, Post-Gazette National Bureau
WASHINGTON -- Rep. Tim Murphy introduced legislation yesterday with a bipartisan group of House and Senate colleagues that would provide new grants and loans to develop electronic medical records systems in an attempt to reduce medical errors and health care costs.
Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, who is a psychologist, developed the bill with his co-chairman on the 21st Century Health Care Caucus, Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, D-R.I. The aim is to create a series of pilot programs for electronic record keeping that could serve as a model for health care providers across the nation to adopt.
Murphy said he was confident that the legislation could gain significant momentum in the Senate, where Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., are working together on a companion proposal but have yet to settle on specifics.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Georgia Republican who is the founder of the Center for Health Transformation and author of a book about using new technologies to save lives, has also thrown his support behind the legislation and appeared yesterday on Capitol Hill with Murphy, Kennedy and Clinton.
The 21st Century Health Information Act, H.R. 2234, would ask groups of doctors, hospitals and health insurance firms to form non-profit regional organizations that would develop the networks for patient data, eliminating the need for paper records.
Murphy has cited the Pittsburgh Regional Healthcare Initiative as a model of the kind of organization that could be formed to develop the systems.
Those non-profit regional organizations would compete for 20 three-year grants -- or for 10-year loans -- parceled out by the Department of Health and Human Services to create electronic record-keeping networks.
Earlier this year, President Bush proposed spending $125 million on health information technologies. The regional grants that Murphy has proposed would cost an additional $50 million during the 2006 fiscal year and perhaps the same amount in future years if the bill is passed by Congress. The money could be used to purchase electronic record keeping software or equipment or to hire consultants and other experts who would help to develop the networks.
To receive the grant money, groups would have to develop systems that meet privacy requirements and standards of "interoperability" -- meaning that the systems would need to work in tandem with those developed by other organizations. An industry group, known as the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology, would develop those standards.
The bill also creates incentives for doctors and other providers to participate in the electronic network, such as increases in their Medicare reimbursements.
Several health systems within the Pittsburgh region have been leaders in the movement toward electronic record keeping.
But Karen Wolk Feinstein, president of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation of Pittsburgh, said moving to electronic records systems is just the first step in a long process.
"Developing a really functional tool that works for doctors and patients still requires a lot of work and research," she said. "The key is not just moving a ton of data into an electronic record -- but some of the most interesting work that is yet to be done ... [is] how you're going to structure it so both patients and physicians can make sense of it."
(Maeve Reston can be reached at 202-488-3479 or mreston@post-gazette.com.)


Gingrich said hospitals would be willing to pay for 80% of physician offices nationwide to install the systems if they were guaranteed not to violate federal laws against referral inducements

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