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Wu Convenes U.S. House Science Committee Hearing on Health Care IT in Oregon

Feb 23, 2006
Press Release
Oregon stands ready to play an integral role in the development of a national health information infrastructure

(Portland, Oregon) - As Ranking Member of the U.S. House Science Subcommittee on Environment, Technology and Standards (ETS), Congressman David Wu (D-OR) convened a Committee field hearing in Oregon on health information technology (IT) systems.

Congressman Wu brought the hearing to Oregon, and the First Congressional District in particular, because it is home to a growing cluster of private sector health care IT companies, as well as the Oregon Health and Science University, which is consistently ranked among the nation's leading schools for biomedical informatics and health care IT.  The Science Committee recognizes Oregon's national reputation around the area of health care IT.

"In Oregon we have a critical mass of experts in the field of health care information technology," stated Congressman Wu.  "This Subcommittee is here today to learn from the success stories of local start-ups such as Kryptiq, as well as large health systems such as Kaiser Permanente and OHSU."

Congressman Wu was joined by Subcommittee member Congressman Dave Reichert (R-WA).  Congressman Wu and Congressman Reichert heard testimony from several witnesses including Dr. William Jeffrey, Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and representatives from Oregon and Washington health care quality groups, hospitals, and insurance and software companies.

The purpose of the hearing was to learn about the potential benefits to health care providers and patients, while also ensuring privacy and security.  Electronic health records (EHR) place a patient's medical history in one accessible location, rather than disconnected paper files throughout various health care systems.  EHR's improve patient care and increase patient safety by reducing medicals errors.

According to two surveys conducted by Public Opinion Strategies of Virginia, 72% of Americans say they favor the establishment of a nationwide electronic information exchange system and 80% agree that if physicians kept EHR's on their patients, health care quality would improve and medical errors would be reduced.  However, a RAND study in 2002 found that only 10-16% of the nation's physicians had adopted this technology.

To help foster a health care information technology infrastructure, the witnesses agreed the Federal Government should take three primary steps.  First, the government should raise awareness about health care IT and its benefits to both patients and providers.  Second, Congress should enact policies that create incentives for health care providers to implement the use of electronic health care records.  And last, Federal regulatory agencies should create standards for health care IT systems so information can be easily transferred across disparate systems.

The witnesses also agreed that, rather than a knee-jerk establishment of a nation-wide health care IT system, the government should permit an organic approach; a system that develops incrementally over time and can adapt to the changing health care landscape.

Dr. Jeffrey agreed the Federal Government should be a "convener and cheerleader" for stakeholders in the health care IT industry.

As Ranking Member of the ETS Science Subcommittee, Congressman Wu will take what the witnesses shared today and use their invaluable expertise in Washington, DC to raise awareness, create incentives and set standards for health care IT systems.

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Excerpts from witness testimony

"There is a glaring problem, and it is the lack of information flow between systems and health care providers.  I am grateful that we have here today a forum for discussion and a framework for progress."

Dr. Jody Pettit, Project Chair,
Oregon Health Care Quality Corporation

"The lack of data mobility is at the heart of the problem of rising health care costs.  The price we pay is unsafe care, high cost and loss of productivity."

Luis Manchuca, president & CEO,
Kryptiq Corporation

"Health care IT is an enabling means towards better overall 'health', not an end in and of itself.  Currently, there is a serious lack of incentive to efficiently and effectively produce health care technology."

Dr. Homer Chin,
Medical Director for Clinical Information Systems,
Kaiser Permanente Northwest

"There is a lot of progress being made in the health care IT industry by disparate providers, vendors and software developers.  The problem is not that there is a dearth of options, it is that there is a plethora of them."

John Jay Kenagy, Chief Information Officer,
Oregon Health & Science University

"Any approach needs to begin at a local or regional level by working from the ground up with clinicians and direct providers of health care.  Without buy-in from the grassroots level, it doesn't matter who else is on board."

Prem Urali, president & CEO,
HealthUnity Corporation

"The goal here is to establish a single health care record system across the continuum.  The government can help by encouraging inter-connectivity and regional networks for sharing information."

Diane Cecchettini RN, president & CEO,
MultiCare Health System

109th Congress