Grants To Grease E-Health Transition Renew Optimistic Skepticism

Administration officials announced a new stimulus-funded federal grant program that will deploy $1.2 billion to help build health information technology infrastructure on Thursday. About half the money will create regional centers to help medical providers choose and implement technologies, while the remainder will be used to create networks for sharing records among providers, Kaiser Health News reports (Villegas, 8/20).

Bloomberg: The officials say the money will help save taxpayers money and improve health care quality. Vice President Joe Biden announced the grants at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Chicago. Alongside Kathleen Sebelius, the health secretary, and Dr. David Blumenthal, the White House's health information technology coordinator, Biden said, "You are going to be able to save a lot more lives and save tens of billions of dollars" (McCormick, 8/20).

Washington Post: "Some studies have estimated that the universal adoption of electronic health technology could save more than $77 billion a year… [But officials have] questioned the validity of that research, in part because of the complexity and unknowns involved…" One expert praised the investments, but said, "The mere use of technology in health care is not enough," suggesting that to achieve the desired results, the investments would have to spur broader culture changes in the health industry and would not be a quick fix. The grants come in addition to a $36 billion program to incentivize individual doctors and hospital to buy records (O'Harrow, 8/21).

CNNMoney: How do electronic records save money? "Since patient information lives in a database, an electronic health record system means patients don't need to take the time to explain medical history to new doctors. EHRs help doctors diagnose faster, significantly cut down on the time it takes hospital staff to chart patients' information and ultimately slash the length of an average patient visit." An estimate by RAND says those savings alone could yield $100 billion over ten years across the industry (Goldman, 8/21).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.