Bush push may also advance healthcare IT

On Aug. 22, President Bush issued an executive order directing agencies that administer or support most health insurance programs to implement "interoperable" technology standards when acquiring or upgrading equipment. The presidential order also requires that agencies provide clear quality measurements and pricing information. Finally, agencies must create incentive programs to improve health care, such as providing financial rewards to doctors and patients who adopt recommended practices.

Contractors hoping to do business with federal agencies must adopt the same policies. Collectively, the agencies cover health care for more than 120 million Americans. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said that the move would create a huge market incentive for health IT without regulating the entire industry. When major customers refuse to do business with health care providers and vendors that do not promote health IT and other standards, he said, "the market begins to organize itself" to improve care and efficiency.

Agencies must comply by January 1, 2007. However, exactly how the order will be implemented remains unclear. Most likely, enforcement will require health care providers to show good-faith efforts, says Gregg Malkary, founder of the SpyGlass Consulting Group, a health IT consultancy. "I'm not sure how much can be done in so short a time frame. In [the health care] industry, they've spent a decade trying to get consensus standards." Delve deeper here.

For more on the order:
- read this article at iHealth Beat.

Also: states may be leading the way with or without Washington as we reported last week.

Finally, lest we be accused of too much D.C. focus, see how this is all playing out on the Left Coast here