President Bush visits vet facility, calls for nationwide electronic medical records system

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President Bush is calling for the creation of a nationwide electronic medical records system within the next decade, as well as a new office in the Department of Health and Human Services: a national health information technology office. Bush addressed the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center Tuesday and the American Association of Community Colleges' annual convention in Minneapolis on Monday.

The federal government will establish technical standards for the switch to the electronic records network by the end of the year, Bush said. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chair Judd Gregg (R-NH) said he plans to bring a bill to the Senate floor to carry out Bush's plan.

Directly after the meeting Tuesday, Bush signed an executive order to create the national health information technology office. It's expected to begin operations within three months as part of the HHS Office of the Secretary. It will evaluate current and future technology efforts and create technical standards so physicians and hospitals may share electronic medical records, while ensuring patient privacy, according to a government official.

A more skeptical House Minority Whip, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), said the proposed $100 million for information technology in Bush's fiscal year 2005 budget is not enough for an electronic records system. "President Bush's comments today are just another empty campaign pledge and do not represent a serious commitment to improving healthcare and reigning in costs in Maryland and across the country," Hoyer told the Baltimore Sun.