HITECH – One Year Later

March 12, 2010 at 9:01 am 1 comment

This Healthleaders Media article examines the efficacy of Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act after its one year anniversary.  Built on other Health IT initiatives originating in 2004, HITECH Act incorporates monetary incentives to encourage health professionals to adopt electronic health records and to utilize more health information technology.

In the wording of the law, “eligible professionals” must demonstrate “meaningful use” of a certified EMR in 2011 in order to receive incentive payments of up to $44,000 from Medicare and $65,000 from Medicaid per individual physician – to help cover the cost of EMR adoption.

And while there are ongoing debates about privacy issues and the effectiveness of digitization, one of the main goals of the project seems to be portability: the ability to have a individual’s medical history readily available to any physician where ever/when ever that individual seeks treatment.  This is the ideal that Dr. H. Walter Kaess and Dr. Roger Chabra spoke of when I interviewed them recently.  GE has illustrated this idea dynamically in its recent commercials for EMRs that have been airing recently.

But what does this all mean for physicians?  How is the Health IT market working with physicians to deliver on the promise of portability without any cost to caring for patients or impeding the physician’s workflow?

The Healthleaders Media article concludes, fairly, that it’s still too early to determine the impact of HITECH on the health industry.  While the law was signed into effect on February 25, 2009, there have been additions and revisions to the act – specifically in the area of security and privacy of patient health information.  There also continue to be gray areas when determining how HITECH defines “meaningful use” or how an EMR system can be certified which makes it harder for physicians to decide on which system would be best for them to adopt.

However, even with that uncertainty, over 40% of physicians leaders surveyed in the 2010 Healthleaders Media Industry survey expect to qualify for the requirements in 2011 while 56% expect spending on Health IT to increase due to HITECH.  So even though it’s too early to determine how many physicians have already adopted IT solutions for HITECH, it seems that many are expecting to have some system in place in order to qualify for those payments in 2011.

So, as the Healthleaders Media article asks, is HITECH working?

It’s already changing the conversation in healthcare and health IT.  It’s made more people realize how improved communications can lead to improving patient care.  And while aspects of this initiative remain too vague for some and a lack of standards creates a sense of unease amongst others, it seems very likely that more physicians will adopt health IT solutions as the deadline for compliance nears.  But until more physicians can be assured that the system they adopt will easily integrate into their workflow and that the solutions they choose are worth the time and money to acquire, it seems like it’ll remain a question with an elusive answer.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • […] to take advantage of the federal funding available for physicians.  As I’ve stated before, electronic health solutions are being adopted at a much faster rate than before due to a confluence of federal funding, improvements in the technology and the growth of the Health […]

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