Government, healthcare must work to develop IT standards, Leavitt says

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The federal government and healthcare industry must commit to developing national standards for healthcare information technology systems, Michael Leavitt, secretary of Health and Human Services, said Monday.

Unless the industry acts soon the healthcare system will become a "last vendor standing" marketplace, he said. Leavitt spoke at an annual American Hospital Association meeting in Washington. While the development of healthcare IT standards is "difficult," "time consuming" and "expensive," he said it's "absolutely essential" that the process start during the next few months.

Congress' proposed reductions in federal funds for Medicaid could hamper the ability of states to implement healthcare IT in their Medicaid programs, said Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA), chairman of the National Governors Association, who also spoke at the meeting.

The federal government should invest Medicaid "savings" in healthcare IT programs to encourage individuals to save more for long-term care, Warner said.