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Mandate for Infotech, Quality Standards Coming 'Within Weeks'

By CQ Staff

August 7, 2006 -- Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt told the nation's governors Sunday that all providers of federally financed health care will soon be ordered to adopt quality measurement tools and health information technology standards.

Leavitt said President Bush will sign an executive order announcing the new requirements "within a matter of weeks," the Washington Post reported Monday. An HHS official confirmed the accuracy of the story. Federally financed health care programs include Medicare, Medicaid, and the Federal Employees Health Program, among others.

Although the Bush administration has characterized the health information standard-setting process as voluntary, Leavitt also has emphasized the importance of timely adoption of those standards and of using government to spur adoption. Health IT standards in the executive order will include such activities as reporting of lab results, registering of patients, the writing of prescriptions, and providing secure communication channels between doctors and patients and among providers.

Leavitt also predicted that by the end of the year, most of the nation's 100 largest private employers will include similar quality measurement and health IT requirements in their contracts with doctors and hospitals. The Post also reported that both Michigan and New Mexico are moving toward creating a system of universal coverage by mandating individual purchase of coverage.

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