Verizon Executive Urges Congress to Pass Health Care IT Legislation

Thursday, June 5, 2008 General News
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WASHINGTON, June 4 Noting that health care is one of thefew segments of the American economy not to have been transformed by modern,efficient information technology, a Verizon executive Wednesday (June 4) urgedCongress to pass a health care information technology bill that has broadsupport.

Testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health,Marc Reed, Verizon executive vice president for human resources, expressedconcern that further delays to establishing a foundation in law for the use ofhealth care IT, including incentives for adoption and procedures for settingstandards, would be costly -- and in many cases, lethal.

"According to the Institutes of Medicine, as many as 100,000 people dieeach year from medical errors," Reed testified. "One way to help prevent theseerrors is access to accurate and up-to-date electronic records, and that isexactly what Health IT provides. I urge all members of Congress to vote toenact this legislation this year. Passage will be a big step toward creatingthe 21st century health care system that America needs."

Health IT can connect doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, labs and patientswith complete and up-to-date test results, prescription records, the latestbest-practice information, and access to medical histories at any time.According to the RAND Corporation, Health IT has the potential to save as muchas $81 billion a year in efficiencies and improved health outcomes. The U.S.Department of Health and Human Services has estimated that as much as 30percent of health costs could be eliminated through widespread adoption ofHealth IT.

Some of the benefits include patients having the ability to access andreview a doctor's advice in private and at their convenience, look up testresults, and confirm prescriptions. Adult children of aging parents would beable to participate in the decision-making and care, and patients in ruralareas could, in many cases, receive examinations without having to leave theirhomes.

Reed -- who oversees $4 billion in health care benefits to 900,000 Verizonemployees, retirees and their dependents -- cited three essential componentsto health care IT legislation: the development of uniform, interoperablestandards; developing the standards in conjunction with two different advisorycommittees, one to provide input on policy and another made up ofprivate-public partners including purchasers; and support for adoption ofthese standards so that providers and payers know that the systems they investin will communicate with each other.

Citing the importance for providers who lack adequate resources forpurchasing health care IT systems to have access to grants or loans, Reed saidsuch assistance should be a "last resort" but that it is necessary to ensurethe systems are uniformly adopted nationwide.

Reed also highlighted the increased security and privacy that Health IToffers in contrast to today's paper-based system, which allows almost anyoneto "open a filing cabinet, take out sensitive patient information, even copyand distribute it, then return the papers without detection."

"Health IT should establish a firewall around patient data, requiringpasswords and permission to gain access, and leaving an audit trail of whoaccessed the data, when and why," Reed testified.

In 2007, Verizon began offering salaried employees electronic personalhealth records as part of an online health portal, HealthZone, which offerspersonalized and confidential tools and resources to help users understandtheir current health status, set health goals, and make better health caredecisions.

Verizon's Electronic Personal Health Records program is voluntary.Employees must enroll, and health care information is imported and managedfrom various sources -- physicians, nurses, hospitals, pharmacies and labs --as well as information entered by the empl

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