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Meaningful Use Press Conference

Washington, DC
July 13, 2010

Good morning. Thank you all for being here today. I’m glad to be joined this morning by our National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Dr. David Blumenthal and our Surgeon General Regina Benjamin. We’re also glad to have Regina Holliday with us, an artist from Washington DC who has seen the need for electronic health records firsthand in her own life.

I want to recognize the many representatives of doctor, hospital, consumer, patient, and employer groups who are here today. Their input has been and will continue to be crucial to the success of the programs we’re announcing today and all our efforts to improve our health care system.

And I’m especially glad to welcome a new member of our department who was just sworn in yesterday, our Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Dr. Don Berwick.

Before I get to today’s news, I want to say how incredibly pleased we are to have Dr. Berwick with us. He’s one of our country’s foremost experts on raising the quality of health care – someone who hasn’t just written about this, but who has a track record of actually doing it across the country.

If your goal is to build a health care system that keeps patients healthier and gives consumers a bigger bang for their buck, there’s no one who has more experience or is more respected in the field than Dr. Berwick. And as you can tell, we haven’t wasted any time in getting him to work.

We’re especially glad to have him because it’s such a promising time for our health care system.

Just over three months ago, we made history by enacting the Affordable Care Act.

One goal of this law was to make our health insurance markets work better for consumers. And we’re already making progress, whether it’s the Patient’s Bill of Rights that will go into effect this fall…or, the first-of-its-kind consumer website that shows you all your health coverage options in one place…or the new state-based health insurance plans for Americans who couldn’t get coverage because of their medical conditions.

But an equally important goal of the Affordable Care Act was moving America towards a 21st century health care system where patients and doctors had more control over their care.

And we knew that we couldn’t do that without a robust, national system of health information technology.

Electronic health records are the foundation of a high-performing health care system. If you want to improve the quality of care, you need to be able to accurately measure it. If you want to promote better coordination between doctors, you need to be able to quickly move health information wherever it’s needed. If you want to empower consumers to take charge of their health care, they need to be able to access their health information without calling up five different doctor’s offices.

Electronic health records make these other reforms possible.

When electronic health records are well-designed and implemented correctly, they can be a powerful force for reducing errors, lowering costs, raising quality of care, and increasing doctor and patient satisfaction.

I’ve seen this firsthand in hospitals I’ve visited across the country. And every doctor I’ve talked to who uses electronic health records has told me they couldn’t imagine going back to pen and paper.

That’s why these standards are supported by the Federation of American Hospitals. And we hope other provider groups will support these standards too once they’ve had a chance to study them more closely.

Yet we also know that today because of various obstacles, only 20 percent of doctors and 10 percent of hospitals use even basic electronic health records.

That’s why last year, as part of the Recovery Act, we began making a historic investment in health information technology.

The centerpiece of that plan is a program that will begin in 2011 in which doctors and hospitals will be able to get incentive payments for adopting electronic health records. We believe this unprecedented investment can catalyze a big change in how health care professionals use health information technology.

But our goal has never been technology for the sake of technology. We’re promoting electronic health records so that it can be used to deliver better care and give consumers more control over their health care. That’s why in order to receive these incentive payments, health care professionals will have to meet the meaningful use standards we are announcing today.

These standards reflect the input of doctors, nurses, hospitals, and patients across our health care system. Altogether, we received more than 2,000 comments on the preliminary rule we are finalizing today, and we carefully weighed every one of them.

Thanks to the contributions of these commenters, we’re announcing a rule today that will push our entire health care system forward while giving doctors and hospitals the flexibility to take their own path.

This is a historic moment. Today, most of us can barely remember the days when every item at the supermarket had a handwritten price sticker or you had to go to the bank to find out how much money you had in your savings account. Health information technology promises to bring that same transformation in convenience and reliability to our health care system.

This transformation will not happen overnight. But the announcement we’re making today sets us on a path towards the 21st health care system of the future.

And now to talk more about how health information technology can improve the quality of care while keeping down costs, I’m very happy to introduce our new CMS administrator, Dr. Don Berwick…


Thank you.