Healthcare IT would help in disasters like Katrina, Leavitt says

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The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is a case for healthcare information technology, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt says.

A national electronic health records system would have been helpful during a disaster like Katrina, in helping prevent the loss of medical records, Leavitt said during the Health Information Technology/HIPAA Summit in Washington.

The hurricane caused the displacement of about 1 million people. Most of those people have lost their medical records, he said. Health IT systems could also allow public health officials to identify disease outbreaks in case a pandemic occurs.

Meanwhile, after effects of the hurricane could delay voting this month on a healthcare IT bill. The bill would include measures to promote the growth of healthcare IT, including grants of $125 million in fiscal year 2006 and $155 million in FY 2007 to healthcare providers to help increase the use of health IT applications.