Each year, individuals, families, and small business owners all across the United States are experiencing increasing health care costs. Even at the physician level, skyrocketing medical malpractice insurances rates have forced many physicians to close their practices, limiting the availability of quality physicians to patients. It is clear we need significant healthcare reform in this country to provide a better quality of care at lower costs to everyone from children to the elderly.

Consider the following: According to a study done by the Institute of Medicine, between 44,000 and 98,000 individuals are killed every year in the United States due to medical errors, and these errors could cost the United States upward of $79 billion each year. If we have the opportunity to significantly decrease the number of these medical errors, resulting in lives saved and reduced health care costs, wouldn’t we take it?

Medical simulation technology – a relatively new field – provides training in which the learner practices in life-like scenarios using simulation or virtual reality. As Founder and Chairman of the Congressional Modeling and Simulation Caucus, I have seen these simulation technologies revolutionize fast-paced industries like homeland security and defense, where they’ve proven to decrease training costs significantly and improve overall national military readiness. The technology is now making its way to the medical industry.

Most recently, many of our nation’s top teaching hospitals are applying simulation technology to the medical field with impressive results for health care quality and patient safety. Hospitals that have already been funded under a U.S. Department of Defense medical simulation trial program saw their clinical error rate decrease from 30 percent to almost four percent, which, when applied across the United States, could reduce medical error costs by up to $17 billion. Giving physicians the opportunity to practice new or sophisticated techniques would provide considerable cost benefits to patients in the U.S., as well as advance our medical industry as a whole.

I have introduced the bipartisan Enhancing SIMULATION (Safety in Medicine, Utilizing Leading Advanced Simulation Technologies to Improve Outcomes Now) Act of 2009, H.R. 855. The Enhancing SIMULATION Act would provide measurable benefits to patients by improving patient safety, to consumers and taxpayers by lowering costs, to communities by the creation of more high-tech jobs, and to physicians and insurers by lowering malpractice rates and claims. Specifically the bill does this by establishing medical M&S grants for academic and professional organizations, promoting innovation in medical M&S within the Department of Health and Human Services, and by creating medical M&S Centers of Excellence across America to provide leadership and research in advancing the field.

Today we stand at a critical juncture in health care. We can sit back and simply wish for a system of empowerment, choice, and quality care that is affordable. Or we can take valuable steps forward at achieving these goals. Modernizing health care through the use of technology is an important step in health care reform that will appropriately bring health care in America into the 21st century.