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Task Force Recommends Better Use of Health IT to Improve Quality, Reduce Costs

February 2, 2012

Recognizing that health information technology (IT) plays an important role in improving the quality and cost-effectiveness of care, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) Task Force on Delivery System Reform and Health IT released recommendations for the most effective use of health IT dollars to support delivery system and payment reforms to achieve improved health, better health care, and reductions in the cost of care.

The recommendations range from realigning incentives and payments to support higher quality, more cost-effective care to increasing the use of electronic health records (EHR) and health information exchange to improve care coordination by enabling doctors, hospitals, and patients to securely share health information when patients receive their care in multiple settings.

“There is strong bipartisan support for health IT, and for moving away from a payment model that largely focuses on volume — rewarding providers for doing more — rather than on quality outcomes or value,” said Senator Tom Daschle, co-leader of BPC’s Health Project.

Health IT is seen as supporting this shift in payment models, and as an essential improvement tool in a system where a patient’s records can be scattered throughout various health care offices and facilities.

“To deliver high-quality, cost-effective care, a physician or hospital needs good information,” said Senator Frist, who also co-leads BPC’s Health Project. “Data about patients has to flow across primary care physicians, hospitals, labs, and anywhere that patients receive care.”

The Task Force’s recommendations come during a time of unprecedented public and private spending on health IT. A record investment of nearly $30 billion was triggered by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009, spurring significant investments by the private sector. A majority of the federal investment is in the form of incentive payments through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, informally known as “Meaningful Use.” The Task Force recommendations aim to channel these investments into health IT capabilities shown to be most effective at improving quality and reducing cost.

The Task Force recommends actions for aligning incentives and payment with higher quality, more cost-effective care, along with the health IT-enabled, coordinated, accountable, patient-centered delivery models that support such outcomes.

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