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Economic Recovery Plan in Action: Rep. Kind Highlights Major Investment in Health IT at Luther Midelfort in Eau Claire

February 18, 2009
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC –In an effort to demonstrate how the public’s economic recovery dollars will be put in action, U.S. Rep. Kind (D-WI) today visited Eau Claire’s Luther Midelfort to highlight a major nationwide investment in health information technology (HIT) that will create jobs and save lives and money. Luther Midelfort is one of Wisconsin’s leading health care facilities in HIT.

The Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides $19 billion to accelerate adoption of HIT systems by 2019 to modernize the health care system, create thousands of high tech jobs, save billions of dollars, reduce medical errors and improve quality. Right now only 4-5 percent of hospitals have fully functional electronic health record systems.

“This investment in HIT will not only create jobs, it will improve health care quality for Americans, and actually save everyone money down the road,” Rep. Kind said. “This is exactly the type of investment we should be making to get our economy moving again – it’s a long-term plan to develop a new industry and create the jobs of the future. We are lucky in western Wisconsin to have hospitals like Luther Midelfort who are at the cutting-edge of this technology, and what they are doing here is what we are hoping to accomplish in hospitals across the nation.”

Dr. John Halamka, Chief Information Officer at Harvard Medical School estimates the HIT policy will create 200,000 jobs nationwide, many of them in the high-tech sectors. In addition to increased safety and quality HIT provides, the systems are also more efficient. Implementing HIT systems nationwide is estimated to reduce health costs for the federal government by more than $12 billion in 10 years. This will also translate into $1-2 billion a year in savings on personal healthcare premiums for Americans.

Luther Midelfort has been recognized as a leader in health information technology and is an example of what hospitals across the country will be implementing with help from the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Dr. David Blair and registered nurse Anna Sylla demonstrated Luther Midelfort’s health care information technology and emphasized the benefits this investment will have for the public.

“Health information technology allows good health care facilities to do what they do better,” said Dr. Blair, who chaired a team of physicians within the Mayo Health System charged with customizing and determining how a Systemwide Electronic Medical Record (EMR) would fit into the daily use of its providers.

The Mayo Health System EMR, among other things, alerts health care providers of patient allergies, lab results or vital signs that are abnormal, as well as upcoming tests or checks, such as cholesterol screenings, tetanus boosters or mammograms. It interacts with a handheld Caremobile device that instantaneously updates the EMR with patient treatment and medications, while cross referencing patient allergies or existing treatment regimens.

“The EMR is not about technology, systems or data,” said Dr. Randall Linton, Luther Midelfort president and CEO. “It’s about one thing – improving the quality and safety of patient care.”