It appears that health care infrastructure will be among the beneficiaries of the $825 billion economic stimulus package passed by the House.

The package funds $20 billion for improvements to health care IT, primarily centering on efforts to promote the use of electronic health records. The funding comes on the heels of lobbying by the members of the health care industry that information technology is indeed a vital part of the nation’s infrastructure.

Testifying before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions last week, Dr. Jack Cochran, executive director of The Permanente Federation, said as Congress considers ways to stimulate the economy, it should explore investing in the nation’s health care delivery system.

“The economic stimulus package should promote the development of effective, interoperable clinical information systems and the skills to use them,” Cochran testified. “While other industries have been quick to automate, the health care industry has often been slow to adopt. Individual medical records, medication lists, along with the latest medical research and up-to-date information on applicable clinical trials must be available for clinicians and patients at the click of a mouse.”

While the focus of the economic stimulus package is supposed to be on “shovel ready” projects, Cochran acknowledged that the benefits of a national investment in health care infrastructure would take a while to materialize.

“Any major transition like this requires fundamental change in workflows,” he said. “We have to build in time for testing, training, and some belly aching too.”

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