- The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) set aside $22 billion to fund accessibility to health care records.
- Most of it in incentives to physicians to use Electronic Health Record (EHR) software.
- Ask for an electronic summary of your visit next time you visit the doctor.
We live in an accessible world of data.
- Launch any web browser and find information on any topic within a few clicks.
- Drive up to an ATM machine, insert your card, type in a code and gain access to your balance, statements, and cash.
- Go to personal finance site, research stocks, manage your portfolio, and initiate transactions.
Now, walk into most clinics or other health care providers, and you will be handed a clipboard with many forms to complete. Want a summary of the visit? A paper summary will be handed to you (if you are lucky enough that it can be produced).
The power of data, and your personal access to it, quickly erodes in most health care delivery organizations. However, all of this is about to change. Transformation is kicking into high gear, all driven by the 2009 economic stimulus bill (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or ARRA).
Tucked in ARRA was the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH). Outside of the healthcare industry, many are unaware of the unfolding events. HITECH has made available $22 billion to fund this transformation, with a bulk of the funding going to incentives for physicians to implement and use Electronic Health Record (EHR) software.
Highlighted below are several key changes underway – all coming from HITECH.
- EHR incentives: Eligible practitioners may be eligible for up to $44,000 over five years in incentive payments from Medicare or up to $63,750 over six years from Medicaid. The eligibility is based on using a certified EHR system. Today, only about 39% of providers use an EHR. Hospitals also are eligible for incentives equaling $2 million with added payments over the five year period.
- Meaningful Use: Very simply, Meaningful Use is collecting, reporting, and exchanging patient data. There are pages and pages of regulations to read through, but each of the three elements previously mentioned will unfold between now and 2015. After this time, the incentives stop, and the penalties begin.
- Support: Regional Health IT Extension Centers have been funded around the country with the objective of providing technical assistance and other resources to help health care providers adopt EHR systems.
- Health IT training: Part of the funding also is to develop college programs to develop health IT careers. Over the next 5 years, there is an estimated shortage of 55,000 professionals in health IT. To put that in perspective, today, there are approximately 108,000 health IT workers in the US.
The crux of this brief review is that it circles back to data and, in this case, patient data. If we want to access our health data in a similar, secure manner as our financial information, then the systems need to be in place to enable the collection and flow of health data.
Accessible data is prevalent throughout most industries, but healthcare is a blaring exemption. Just as financial data is critical for us to manage our daily lives as well as our future prosperity, healthcare data is essential for us to manage our short- and long-term physical well-being.
Transformation is underway. The next time you visit your physician, ask them if you can receive an electronic summary of your visit. Our demand for access could be the ultimate incentive to accelerating adoption of EHRs and facilitating the availability of data.