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Fact Sheet: Transforming Health Care for All Americans

May 27, 2004

Today's Presidential Action

  • Today, President Bush visited Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, to discuss with doctors and patients his plan for health information technology to assure better delivery of health care for all Americans.
  • The President's budget for FY 2005 continues to support the use of health information technology by doubling funding to $100 million for demonstration projects that will help test the effectiveness of health IT and allow for widespread adoption in the health care industry. The use of health information technology will improve America's health care system and put the needs and privacy of the patient first.

Challenges to the U.S. Health Care System

  • The U.S. health care system has a long and distinguished history of innovation, but at the same time faces major challenges. Failure to use health IT has resulted in high costs, uncertain value, medical errors, variable quality, administrative inefficiencies, and poor coordination. The Institute of Medicine estimates that between 44,000 and 98,000 Americans die each year from medical errors. Many more die or have permanent disability because of inappropriate treatments, mistreatments, or missed treatments in ambulatory settings. Studies have found that as much as $300 billion is spent each year on health care that does not improve patient outcomes -- treatment that is unnecessary, inappropriate, inefficient, or ineffective.
  • Managing 21st Century, complex medical technology with a 19th Century, paper-based system: The innovation that has made our medical care the world's best has not been fully applied to our health information systems. America's medical professionals are the best and brightest in the world, and they set global standards. It is a testament to their skill that they are able to achieve high-quality care in this outdated, paper-based system, in which:
    • A patient's vital medical information is scattered, and full records are often unavailable at the time of care.
    • Physicians do not keep information about drugs, interactions, and guidelines easily at hand.
    • Medical orders and prescriptions are handwritten and are too often misunderstood.
    • Consumers lack access to useful, credible health information to determine the best treatment for their needs.
    • Physicians do not always have the best information to select the best treatments for their patients.

The President's Solution to Transform Health Care

  • Better health information technology is essential to improving America's health care system. For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is on the leading edge of change, and their use of health IT throughout the VA system has improved the quality of care veterans receive and reduced medical errors. Due to development of the computerized health record, the VA is also a recognized leader in telehealth -- delivering medicine where patient and provider are separated by distance and improving access to specialist care.
  • President Bush's Health Information Technology Plan addresses longstanding problems in the Nation's health care system. Last month, the President announced the goal of assuring that most Americans have electronic health records within the next 10 years. These electronic health records will be designed to share information privately and securely among health care providers when authorized by the patient.
  • To achieve his 10-year goal, the President is taking the following steps to urge coordinated public and private sector efforts that will accelerate broader adoption of health information technology:
    • Adopting Health Information Standards to allow medical information to be stored and shared electronically while maintaining privacy.
      • In the last several years, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been collaborating with the private sector and other Federal agencies to identify and endorse voluntary standards that are necessary for health information to be shared safely and securely among health care providers including:
        • Standards for transmitting X-rays over the Internet to be seen immediately by doctors;
        • Electronic lab results transmitted to physicians for immediate analysis, diagnosis, and treatment -- assuring a prompt response and eliminating errors and duplicative testing due to lost laboratory reports; and
        • Electronic prescriptions to save time for patients and help avoid serious medical errors.
    • Doubling Funding to $100 Million for Demonstration Projects on Health Care Information Technology to build upon the progress already made in the area of health information technology standards over the last several years.
      • The President's proposed FY 2005 budget includes $100 million for demonstration projects that will help us test the effectiveness of health IT, paving the way for widespread adoption of health IT while assuring the privacy and security of the patient's medical information.
      • This increase builds on President Bush's FY 2004 budget which included $50 million for health IT, supporting more local and regional grants for community, state, and regional approaches to assure that essential medical information is available in the E.R., in the doctor's office, and in the hospital.
    • Naming a National Health Information Technology Coordinator to provide national leadership and coordination necessary to achieve the President's 10-year goal. Dr. David Brailer, former Senior Fellow at the Health Technology Center in San Francisco, will guide ongoing work on health information standards and develop a strategic plan to guide implementation of health IT to improve safety and quality while addressing health care costs. Dr. Brailer will also coordinate partnerships between government agencies and private sector stakeholders that will be essential to the successful adoption of health information technology.
    • Using the Federal Government to Foster the Adoption of Health Information Technology as one of the largest buyers of health care -- in Medicare, Medicaid, the Health Centers program, the Federal Employee Health Benefits program, Veterans medical care, and programs in the Department of Defense. The Federal Government can create incentives and opportunities for health care providers to use electronic records. The President has directed these agencies to review their policies and programs and propose modifications and new actions, and to forward the recommendations to him in less than 90 days.
  • The President's Health Information Technology Plan is an important part of his agenda to make America's world-leading health care more accessible, more affordable and more flexible. The President also supports:
    • Association Health Plans that give America's working families greater access to affordable health insurance through small businesses;
    • Health Savings Accounts which are new tax-free savings accounts available to improve the way Americans purchase health insurance and pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses;
    • Tax Credits of up to $1,000 for individuals and $3,000 for families to help low-income workers buy health insurance coverage; and
    • Medical Liability Reform to increase access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans, while reducing frivolous and time-consuming legal proceedings against doctors and health care providers that are driving good providers out of local communities across the country and raising health care costs for all.

Highlights of The President's Health Care Agenda

  • All seniors will be guaranteed access to affordable prescription drug coverage under Medicare.
  • All seniors will have more choices and better benefits under a strengthened and improved Medicare program.
  • All Americans will benefit from lower prescription drug prices by strengthening competition between generic and brand-name drugs.
  • Health Savings Accounts will improve the way Americans get help with out-of-pocket medical expenses.
  • Millions of low-income Americans have been made eligible for health care coverage.
  • Since 2001, the Bush Administration has increased the number of people served in health centers by 30%.
  • The President has pledged to open or expand 1,200 health centers by 2006, and treat 6 million more low-income Americans a year.
  • Since 2001, the Bush Administration has opened or expanded more than 600 health centers.
  • Federal funding of State high-risk pools, which provide safety net health insurance to individuals with serious medical conditions, will make coverage more affordable.
  • Doubling the budget of the National Institutes of Health will lead to better health care for all Americans.
  • Increased funding for biodefense preparedness is strengthening our homeland security and improving public health surveillance.

George W. Bush, Fact Sheet: Transforming Health Care for All Americans Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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