George Bush wants health care data transparency

President Bush issued an executive order requiring the fouragencies charged with overseeing fed programs to overhaul IT forthe exchange of health data and measurement quality.

The move is designed to increase the transparency of federal agencies that handleveterans’ health care, Medicare and federal employee health care sopatients can obtain information on quality measurements and theprice of care, according to the order.

It requires the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Health and HumanServices (HHS), the Office of Personnel Management and theDepartment of Veterans Affairs to adhere to interoperabilitystandards when acquiring or upgrading health IT systems that willbe used to exchange health information between agencies and withother entities.

The standards will be set by HHS.

The agencies must also put in place programs to measure thequality of the services they provide to beneficiaries byaggregating claims data, according to the order. And they have beentold that the health care providers and insurance plans theycontract with also must adhere to the standards for their ITsystems.

The agencies must comply with the executive order by Jan. 1.

“People deserve to know what their health care costs, how goodit is and the choices available to them,” HHS Secretary MikeLeavitt said in a statement. “The President’s action today is amajor step forward in giving consumers easy-to-use informationabout the quality and price of their health care.”

While national organizations comprising insurance companies andhealth care providers have been working for several years todevelop ways to measure health care quality, the president’sinitiative aims to build on those efforts and ultimately offerconsumers information in a single spreadsheet format, HHSsaid.

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