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Our View: Federal funds good for Monroe Clinic project
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Good things don't necessarily happen quickly in Washington.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, announced that $292,000 in federal funds were officially secured for Monroe Clinic to assist in its health care information technology systems project. It became official when President Bush signed into law the FY 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) Appropriations Bill Conference Report that had been previously approved by the House and Senate.

Included in the LHHS was funding for Monroe Clinic that had been sought for the better part of the past year. In fact, the Times had a news story dated July 20, 2007, about the funding's inclusion in the House version of the bill. At the time, Baldwin spokesperson Jerilyn Goodman said it could be early December until something was finalized.

It ended up being another month after that, but the news was good, nonetheless.

"I'm delighted that these funds remained in the final bill following intense deliberation in both houses of Congress," Baldwin said in a news release last week. "I'm acutely aware of the need for information technology upgrades in our medical facilities to improve patient care and efficiency and reduce costs. These efforts are worthy of federal support and I'm proud to partner with Monroe Clinic to achieve these goals."

The project at Monroe Clinic is an important one. It's a years-long effort to move all Clinic operations from a paper-based records system to an electronic medical records system. Once completed, the project also will enhance the filling of prescriptions in the hospital and pharmacy, as well as radiology and imaging services.

Moving to an electronic records system should make health care services offered by Monroe Clinic more efficient, less expensive and safer. Monroe Clinic is ahead of the curve with its transition, and it's a trend that can cure a lot of industry ills on the national level.

As Monroe Clinic CEO Mike Sanders pointed out last week, this is the first time Monroe Clinic has received funding through the federal appropriations process. Some could make the argument that public federal funds shouldn't go toward a private institution like Monroe Clinic. Some also could make the argument that Monroe Clinic made its commitment to the records transition in 2003 and the project has progressed without the presence of federal funds.

The better argument to make is that public tax dollars are advancing a project that will improve health care at an institution that serves taxpaying citizens. We join Sanders in "applauding" Baldwin for her work in securing the federal funds. Jim Winter 1/28/08 Jean Woodruff 1/28/08