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Joint Comments to U.S. Sens. Kennedy, Enzi, Clinton and Hatch on Wired for Health Care Quality Act – 6/4/07

AABB (formerly known as American Association of Blood Banks) and America’s Blood Centers (ABC) wish to thank Senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), Michael B. Enzi (R-WY), Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) for the opportunity to submit written comments on health information technology (IT) legislation now being developed.  We strongly support health IT legislation which would assist both hospitals and blood centers in implementing technologies necessary to track and reduce the incidence of potentially life-threatening adverse events associated with blood transfusions.

We respectfully ask the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee to enable blood centers to be eligible to receive federal grant funding for health IT initiatives. As currently drafted, the Senate legislation does not explicitly recognize blood centers as qualifying entities for grant funding (Title 1, Sec. 101). Therefore, we respectfully request that the bill address this deficit by adding the language “a federally licensed, not-for-profit blood center” to the definition of Health Care Provider.

Rationale/Needs to be Met

Health IT grant funding will enable blood centers to enhance or create systems that better track life-saving blood products from donor to patient, and to help ensure that the right patient gets the right blood.

  • Implementation of Sophisticated Tracking and Coding Systems: IT grant funding will enable blood centers to strengthen blood product tracking and records interoperability with the hospitals and other transfusion services they supply. In an effort to improve patient safety, the blood community is moving toward nationwide implementation of an improved bar coding system (ISBT 128) to track blood from donors to recipients. Such a change will require significant expenditures in IT for blood centers and hospitals seeking to implement and integrate ISBT 128 bar coding systems at blood centers and the hospitals they serve.
  • Secure Data Collection and Storage: IT funding will also help blood centers ensure a level of system redundancy necessary to preserve and maintain access to vital data about blood supplies, blood products, blood samples, donor histories and blood test results, especially during domestic emergencies.

  • Improved Identification of Infectious Diseases: Blood centers are in a unique position to identify infectious diseases across a broad demographic of the population and provide such data in a timely fashion to local, state, and federal health authorities. Most blood centers perform nine different disease marker tests to identify hepatitis B and C, HIV, syphilis and West Nile infections. A growing number of blood centers have begun using electronic donor questionnaire forms, which provide data about the risk factors and habits of millions of Americans. Grant funding could be used to provide donor data (with full security and privacy precautions in place) to health-care and government database systems. In conjunction with emerging electronic blood tracking systems and testing data, donor questionnaire data could be used for state and regional hemovigilance systems that would help governments assure the adequacy and safety of the blood supply.