October 2004

 Mission:  To expand the use of information, information technology, management systems, and incentives to foster a health care delivery system designed to drive measurable improvements in the quality, safety, and efficiency of health care.



AHRQ Awards Health IT Grants


GAO Reports on Federal Health Privacy Rules


Interoperability Commissioners Named


Dodd Introduces Health IT Bill


New Vendor Advisory Council to Provide Input to Certification Commission for Health IT


Electronic Drug Reporting Wins Passage in the House

FDA Approves Implantable Chip


IHI's Promising Practice of the Month: Improving Medication Safety


National Quality Forum Announces New Standards




1.  AHRQ Awards Health IT Grants.  The Department of Health and Human Services has announced $139 million in grants and contracts, through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, to promote the use of health information technology.  The funding includes nearly $96 million, over three years, to provide over 100 grants to promote access to healthcare information technology through assisting with the phases of development and use.  It also provides five-year contracts for five states (Colorado, Indiana, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Utah) to help develop statewide networks.  A National Health Information Technology Resource Center will also be created.  www.hhs.gov/news/press/2004pres/20041013.html


2.  GAO Reports on Federal Health Privacy Rules.  The General Accounting Office issued a report stating that the healthcare sector has reported that implementation of the government's privacy rule went smoother than most expected that it would.  Although providers did express concern over the requirement to account for certain information disclosures and the requirement to develop agreements with business associates that extend privacy protections "downstream," many providers said that these issues could be resolved through modification of the rule and from further guidance by the Department of Health and Human Services.  Some consumer advocacy groups have said that patients' families, friends, and other representatives have experienced unnecessary difficulty in assisting patients with their healthcare needs because of some of HIPAA's restriction and how healthcare providers have implemented its rules.  www.gao.gov/new.items/d04965.pdf


3.  HIT Commissioners Named.  President George W. Bush has announced his intention to appoint Scott Wallace, C. Martin Harris and William W. Stead to be members of the Commission on Systemic Interoperability, which was established by the Medicare Modernization and Prescription Drug Act of 2003.  Vicky Gregg and Ivan Seidenberg have been nominated by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN).  House Speaker Dennis Hastert has nominated Gary Mecklenburg and Don Detmer to the Commission.  In total, eleven commissioners are to be named by the President, the Speaker of the House, the Senate Majority Leader, the Senate Minority Leader and the House Minority Leader.  The Commission on Systemic Interoperability was established by Section 1012 of the Medicare Modernization Act.  The Commission is responsible for developing a strategy for the implementation of health care information technology standards.  The Commission is made up of eleven commissioners and is expected to deliver a report on the future of information technology standards by October 31, 2005


4.  Dodd Introduces Health IT Bill.  Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) has introduced a bill (S. 2907) to amend the Public Health Service Act to improve the quality and efficiency of health care delivery through improvements in health care information technology.  The bill was referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.  The Information Technology for Health Care Quality Act is intended to encourage health care providers to invest in information technology (IT).  It would also create an office in the White House, the Office of Health Information Technology, to oversee all of the Federal Government's activities in the area of health IT, and to create and implement a national strategy to expand the adoption of IT in health care.  This legislation would also provide financial assistance to individual health care providers to stimulate investment in IT, and to communities to help them set up interoperable IT infrastructures at the local level, often referred to as Local Health Information Infrastructures.


5.  New Vendor Advisory Council to Provide Input to Certification Commission for HIT.  To offer an open forum for vendors interested in certification of electronic health record (EHR) products, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) has formed the Health Information Technology Certification Commission Vendor Advisory Council. The advisory council, open to HIMSS member and non-member companies, will provide input to the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT) from the vendor/consultant perspective and serve as a forum for receiving information from the certification commission. "It is crucial that the certification process for EHR products includes industry-wide input from vendors," said H. Stephen Lieber, HIMSS president/CEO.  "The HIT Certification Commission Vendor Advisory Council was created to open that dialogue so that vendor firms supporting EHR certification have an effective way to communicate to, participate in and impact the work of the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology."


6.  Electronic Drug Reporting Wins Passage in the House.  The House passed the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Act of 2004 by voice vote October 5.  The bill (H.R. 3015) was originally introduced in September of 2003 by Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY).  It would establish an electronic system to detect some instances of attempted abuse of schedule II, III and IV controlled substances.  The system would allow physicians to view previous prescriptions of these controlled substances that their patients have received.  This national system would be supported by state databanks.  Currently around nineteen states have such systems in place. 


7.  FDA Approves Implantable Chip.  The Food and Drug Administration has approved an implantable computer chip intended to carry a patient's medical records.  The microchips are the size of a grain of rice.  The chip is implanted under the skin in a procedure that takes less than 20 minutes and is intended to assist with healthcare delivery as doctors can scan the chip and receive patient-specific information.  The announcement drew criticism from privacy advocates and others concerned about possibilities of abuse.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A29954-2004Oct13.html.


8.  IHI's Promising Practice of the Month: Improving Medication Safety.  Successful improvement efforts generally have two valuable pay-offs: the end result and the learning gained along the way. Such is the case at Metropolitan Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where adverse drug events (ADEs) on admission have been virtually eliminated, and a whole new approach to problem solving is now described as "a way of life."


Read about it:



9. National Quality Forum Announces New Standards.  The National Quality Forum (NQF) announced publication of a new set of national consensus standards.  "National Voluntary Consensus Standards for Nursing-Sensitive Care:  An Initial Performance Measure Set" is the first-ever national standards for nursing care.  The executive summary of the report, with a list of endorsed performance measures, can be found on the NQF web site, www.qualityforum.org


 The report details quality standards endorsed by the NQF's 250-plus Member organizations through its formal Consensus Development Process.  As such, the measures have special legal standing as voluntary consensus standards.


The 15 new standards provide a framework for how to measure the quality of nursing care.  They can be used by consumers to assess the quality of nursing care in hospitals and by providers to identify opportunities for improvement of critical outcomes and processes of care.


The House 21st Century Health Care Caucus thanks the following organizations for their contributions to this newsletter:

HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) is the healthcare industry's membership organization exclusively focused on providing leadership for the optimal use of healthcare information technology and management systems for the betterment of human health.  HIMSS frames and leads healthcare public policy and industry practices through its advocacy, educational and professional development initiatives designed to promote information and management systems' contributions to ensuring quality patient care.  On the web at www.himss.org. (Items 1-7)

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) is a not-for-profit organization leading the improvement of health care throughout the world.  Founded in 1991 and based in Boston, MA, IHI is a catalyst for change, cultivating innovative concepts for improving patient care and implementing programs for putting those ideas into action.  Thousands of health care providers participate in IHI's groundbreaking work. To find out more, go to www.ihi.org. (Item 8)