Senate health reform hearings focus on IT

By Bernie Monegain
10:10 AM

Continued adoption of healthcare information technology is critical to healthcare reform, a spokesman for the nation's top corporations told the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday.

John Castellani, president of the Business Roundtable, which represents chief executives of the nation's top corporations, offered his comments during the second of three roundtables to discuss healthcare reform. The committee is chaired by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)

"We have had many discussions with the committee about ways to create greater value in our healthcare system, Castellani said in a prepared statement. "And we applaud your commitment to identify options that are key to the success of reform."

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Top among the three measures Castellani said his group supports as key to reform is "continued adoption of uniform interoperable health information technology standards and incentives to use health information technology."

The Business Roundatble also supports initiatives that give consumers information on cost and quality and comparison of the effectiveness of healthcare services and supplies, as well as a change in the payment system by public and private payers that rewards value of service rather than volume.

The Business Roundtable was not alone is championing healthcare IT as a key tool for reform.

Jennie Chin Hansen, a nurse and president of the AARP, also called for IT as a component of change in testimony she submitted to the committee.

The AARP also urged the committee to address chronic and long-term care.

"A cornerstone of comprehensive reform is improving care coordination across all settings and ensuring access to home and community-based services so people can stay in their homes and out of costly institutions," she said. "Uncoordinated care for people with chronic conditions results in poor quality, including costly medical errors and unnecessary tests and hospital and nursing home stays."

Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the leading health insurance industry organization, told the committee the industry is prepared to introduce greater simplicity to the system through technology and regulatory reform.

"In our December 2008 board statement," she said, "we emphasized that any healthcare reform proposal should include recommendations to streamline administrative processes across the healthcare system."

"Success will require advances in automating routine administrative procedures, expanding the use of decision support tools in clinical settings and implementing interoperable electronic health records," she said. "Done right, streamlining can also help reduce costs system-wide, leading to improved affordability."

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