'Wired for Health Care Quality Act' Would Save Thousands of Lives, Billions of Dollars
WASHINGTON, April 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- CEOs representing America's top companies joined forces Wednesday, April 2, 2008, with U.S. Senate health leaders to urge swift passage of the "Wired for Health Care Quality Act," a measure to bring the power of information technology to the health care sector.
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"We can save thousands of lives and conserve billions of dollars for health care with this one stroke -- and we can do it this year," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and sponsor of the legislation.
"The healthcare and business communities, including small businesses, are clamoring for Congress to take action and establish uniform health IT standards," said Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), ranking member of the HELP committee and original co-sponsor of the legislation. "This bill will eliminate duplicative tests and reduce medical errors. Moving from a paper-based health care system to secure electronic medical records will save lives and reduce skyrocketing health care costs."
Joining the Senate leaders were Business Roundtable members Ivan Seidenberg, chairman and CEO of Verizon Communications Inc., and Ronald A. Williams, chairman and CEO of Aetna Inc. The four called for speedy passage of the bill, which seeks to replace the current system of paper records with secure, protected electronic records.
Also presented during the event was a compelling compilation of data by Dr. Robert Wescott documenting the potential life saving and cost saving benefits of health IT.
-- The RAND Corporation found that widespread usage of health IT could produce annual savings in efficiency and improved health outcomes of $165 billion.
-- According to a 2002 Commonwealth Fund study, 22 percent of Americans report that they or a family member have experienced a medical error of some kind -- errors that could be avoided through health IT use. Many of the 98,000 deaths from medical errors each year could also be avoided.
-- Each day that Congress fails to pass the "Wired for Healthcare Quality Act," 268 Americans die from medical mistakes, and the nation loses $452 million dollars, losses that could be prevented by health IT.
The "Wired for Health Care Quality Act" was introduced last June in the Senate; a similar bill -- the "Promoting Health Information Technology Act" -- was introduced several months later in the House of Representatives. Both bills would foster implementation of a nationwide interoperable health information network.
Business Roundtable member companies provide health insurance to 35 million Americans, which represents a quarter of all Americans who have private employer-based or group health insurance coverage.
"For nearly all businesses, with the notable exception of health care, electronic communication has already moved into second- and third-generation iterations. Yet, today 90 percent of health care records are kept on paper," said Ivan Seidenberg, who is also chairman of Business Roundtable's Health and Retirement Task Force. "The Internet has already entered 'Web 2.0': We can access our personal banking information from around the globe and receive up-to-the-minute updates on news, stocks and much more. Meanwhile, our health care is stuck in time and lacks even the simplest IT foundation. We must act now to upgrade American health care and establish an interconnected nationwide health-technology system."
Verizon covers 900,000 employees, retirees and their dependants and offers an example of what could be done, Seidenberg said. The company offers employees an enhanced Personal Health Care Record to gather, store and manage essential health information from multiple sources in one file.
"Rarely are these decisions as easy as this one: invest now to wire America for 21st century health care or continue paying the price for an ineffective system in lives and dollars," said Ronald A. Williams. "Congress must pass health IT now."
Business Roundtable (http://www.businessroundtable.org) is an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies with $4.5 trillion in annual revenues and nearly10 million employees. Member companies comprise nearly a third of the total value of the U.S. stock markets and represent over 40 percent of all corporate income taxes paid. Collectively, they returned $114 billion in dividends to shareholders and the economy in 2006.
Business Roundtable is also a founding member of Divided We Fail, a national effort with AARP, SEIU and NFIB designed to engage the American people, elected officials and the business community to find broad-based, bi-partisan solutions to health care and long-term financial security.
SOURCE Business Roundtable