Aug 25, 2010 (10:08 AM EDT)
Biden Touts Recovery Act For Improving Healthcare

Read the Original Article at InformationWeek

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Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a government report Tuesday that projects billions of dollars in reduced healthcare costs and significant improvements in patient care as a result of investment in health IT.

The Recovery Act: Transforming the American Economy Through Innovation, focuses on the projects that have received funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which will distribute more than $787 billion to invest in projects that will spur economic growth and develop new industries.

The report explores four areas that have so far received ARRA funding: modernizing transportation, including advanced vehicle technology and high-speed rail; jumpstarting the renewable energy sector through wind and solar energy; building a platform for private sector innovation through investments in broadband, smart grid, and health information technology; and investing in groundbreaking medical research.

ARRA is investing $20 billion in health IT that will accelerate the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs), e-prescribing, and e-care. Approximately $2 billion is being spent to support hospitals, providers, states, and other stakeholders in adopting health IT. The remaining funds will be used to incentivize physicians and providers to adopt health IT in 2011 and beyond, the report said.

Also of note is the work being done through the $250 million awarded to the Beacon Communities program, which will help local areas demonstrate the use of new technologies aimed at sustainable improvements in health outcomes, healthcare quality, safety, and efficiency. These efforts will not only cut certain medical costs, but also improve care, the document said.

"Through the Recovery Act, we're giving [physicians and scientists] the tools to make the most profound innovation of all: improving and extending health and human life, while bringing down the cost in medicine," Biden said.

The report cites instances in which healthcare delivery organizations are using Recovery Act money to chart groundbreaking medical innovations.

The Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems (EMHS) in Bangor, Maine is using its $12.8 million award to improve home-based care and reduce unnecessary emergency department (ED) visits. Funds from the Recovery Act are being used to link healthcare providers to an existing health information exchange to promote the use of telemedicine. According to the report, over the course of three years, EMHS will seek to achieve reductions in avoidable ED visits, and estimates that a 15% reduction in avoidable ED visits would translate to a 7,000 visit reduction locally, totaling $2 million in savings per year.

"If this reduction were made nationally, it could potentially translate to approximately 18 million fewer ED visits, which could save billions of dollars in healthcare spending per year," the report said.