A patient safety bill has been passed by the US Senate calling for new standards of interoperability in healthcare-information technology systems. The bill aims to improve medical care by creating a voluntary error-reporting system and safeguarding the privacy of data.
Members of Congress must now work to reconcile the bill with a similar effort passed by the House of Representatives last year.
Both bills call for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to adopt interoperability standards; the Senate asks for such standards within 36 months, the House version calls for standards in 18 months.
The IT efforts in both bills, introduced in February and March 2003, risk being overtaken by administration action. President Bush has asked for a boost in funds for health-IT demonstration projects, and HHS secretary Tommy Thompson and National Health IT co-ordinator David Brailer have said they are interested in exploring the best ways to ensure interoperability.
Brian Reid writes for Health-IT World