July 17,2013

Press Contact:

Sean Neary/Meaghan Smith

Baucus Pushes for Continued Growth in Health IT to Improve Care, Reduce Costs

Finance Chairman: “Better Health Care Is Our Goal, and Technology Helps Us Achieve It”

WASHINGTON –In a Senate Finance Committee hearing today, Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) pushed for continued growth in health information technology (HIT) to improve care, promote efficiency and reduce costs.

“Better health care is our goal, and technology can help us achieve it,” Senator Baucus said.  “Today’s innovative technologies help health care professionals keep accurate records, provide appropriate care and avoid duplicate tests.  Use of this technology must expand and become part of the culture of health care delivery.  We can encourage this culture change by adopting new payment models that hold providers responsible for providing high-quality, low-cost care.”

In 2009, Congress passed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, known as HITECH.  Under the law, Medicare and Medicaid give financial incentives for providers to adopt health information technology, and to put it into “meaningful use.”  The law outlines three stages of meaningful use, with each stage increasing the sophistication and integration of the technology.

Stage one, which began in 2011, focuses on physicians adopting electronic health records and collecting data from those records.  Stage two, set to begin in 2014, will focus on sharing electronic health information among hospitals and physicians.  Stage three will focus on ensuring the information improves patient outcomes.

According to Medicare and Medicaid, the number of hospitals using electronic health records has boomed by more than 700 percent since HITECH was enacted.  Physicians’ use has also jumped.  Less than 20 percent of physicians used electronic records prior to HITECH, but more than 50 percent do today. 

Senator Baucus said providers and the government must work together to ensure the investments made in HIT are spent efficiently.  He added that new payment models in Medicare and Medicaid designed to promote coordination among providers will help drive them to adopt HIT. 

Senator Baucus noted, however, that rural hospitals and providers lag behind in adopting HIT.  He said the government and providers must work to close that disparity.