Whitehouse and Roberts Pushing Health Care Reform

Both Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts are making strides to improve health care and make it more accessible and efficient. From Whitehouse’s press office:

Washington, D.C. – The Senate Budget Committee today unanimously adopted a bipartisan measure proposed by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) supporting the adoption of modern health information technology and accepted best practices in clinical settings. Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), and Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.) cosponsored the measure, which was reported to the full Senate this afternoon as part of the Senate budget resolution.

“America has the best doctors, nurses, and technology in the world, but too often, the poorest health outcomes due to bureaucratic inefficiencies and avoidable medical errors,� said Whitehouse. “We need to invest more in health IT, and this is a good first step.� As Attorney General of Rhode Island, Whitehouse founded the Rhode Island Quality Institute, a collaborative effort between health care providers, insurers, and government to lower costs and find innovative solutions to our health care crisis.

A 2001 Institute of Medicine report found that health “information technology can contribute to a reduction in avoidable medical errors by standardizing and automating certain decisions, and by aiding in the identification of possible errors, such as potential adverse drug interactions, before they occur.� Many public health technology applications “are within technical reach at a relatively low cost, but are not widely used because of a lack of targeted public-sector funding.�

According to a study published in Health Affairs, only 15-20% of physician offices, and 20-25% of hospitals, had electronic medical record systems as of 2005. By even the most conservative estimate, effective electronic medical record implementation and networking could eventually save more than $81 billion annually, $23 billion of which would accrue annually to the Medicare program.

…and from the Lt. Governor’s office:

PROVIDENCE – Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts led her fellow lieutenant governors this afternoon in a discussion of the Massachusetts Health Care Reform Plan and its applicability to other states’ universal health care initiatives. Roberts, taking part in the winter meetings of the National Lieutenant Governors’ Association in Washington, DC, was the only freshman lieutenant governor chosen to lead a policy session.

“Today, lieutenant governors from over 30 states addressed the health care crisis we face and I was proud to lead this exciting meeting,” Roberts said. “All Rhode Islanders deserve quality health care they can afford. The initiative in Massachusetts is a significant step towards this goal and we must use the lessons of its implementation to create our own opportunities.”

Congratulations to Elizabeth Roberts for moving the country forward on improving accessibility to health care, and to Whitehouse for working to make health care documentation more efficient with better information technology.