Bush vows to support e-heath records initiatives

In his sixth State of the Union address, President Bush last night said health IT advancements will help the country reduce healthcare costs and improve patient care.

The President told Congress that his administration will promote the greater use of electronic health records and other IT tools so healthcare will become more reliable and affordable.

"We will make wider use of electronic records and other health information technology to help control costs and reduce dangerous medical errors," Bush said.

In particular, the administration will work to develop national health IT standards that will accelerate patient access to e-records, the White House said in a fact sheet released in conjunction with last night's speech. This effort includes a medical clipboard that will contain medical history and can only be accessed with a patient's consent.

The Health and Human Services Department late last year [http://www.gcn.com/24_32/health_IT/37501-1.html] said they anticipate releasing health e-records systems this June that are certified as capable of exchanging data with other providers when the standards are decided.

More recently, HHS awarded several contracts totaling $18.6 million to four health care and health IT groups to develop four prototypes for a nationwide health information architecture?the final piece of the health IT foundation

Elsewhere, Bush asked Congress to renew the controversial Patriot Act and said the country must also strengthen its immigration enforcement and border protection, although he was not specific and did not mention any particular programs.

The president also said his administration will create an American Competitiveness Initiative that will encourage innovation within the economy. Bush proposed to double the federal commitment to basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years so the country can further explore nanotechnology and supercomputing.

Moreover, Bush said he proposed to make permanent a research and development tax credit that will "encourage bolder private-sector initiatives in technology. With more research in both the public and private sectors, we will improve our quality of life?and ensure that America will lead the world in opportunity and innovation for decades to come."

At the same time, though, the president said he will continue reducing the growth of non-security discretionary spending in his fiscal 2007 budget?due out Monday?and cut over 140 programs "that are performing poorly or not fulfilling essential priorities."

"By passing these reforms, we will save the American taxpayer another $14 billion next year and stay on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009," the president said.

Rob Thormeyer is a staff writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

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