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Health IT: What it Really Means

ARRA was signed into law on February 17, 2009.  On August 20, 2009, the HIT Standards Committee made recommendations to National Coordinator Blumenthal for standards governing meaningful use of electronic health records.  HHS will issue a final rule based on the recommendations by December 31, 2009.  There will be a 60 day comment period.

This is all great and represents significant progress in a short amount of time.

But if you’re like me, you still scratch your head sometimes about what it all means and where are we heading.

A health care provider recently asked me about meaningful use and what it means.  I asked him if he had looked at the “matrix” that lays out the various goals, reportable measures and metrics.   And he asked me, “did you hear what you just said?”.   If we talk about matrices, denominators and the like, we will lose the very people we are asking to embrace health IT.  That’s why we need better, straightforward communication with a clear road map for providers to follow to ensure they qualify for Medicare or Medicaid incentives.

A better response to my friend would have been, “Well, we’re very concerned about obesity in America, right?  That’s why one of the measures a physician must report as part of their EHR is body mass index.  That will help us define the problem, establish a baseline, raise awareness, and take steps to address the health problem.”  We have 30 reportable quality measures, and several measures related process, vocabulary, privacy and security.   These measures will help us address adherence, obesity, smoking, heart disease, among other problems.

It is also important to recognize care coordination, particularly in Medicare, is critical to success.  We need to bring specialists into the fold by providing guidance and assistance to them through the regional extension centers.

HHS has done a good job moving rapidly to develop standards and move them towards adoption.  It is critical HHS communicate what this means so that providers not only buy into HIT adoption and use, but that they embrace it.

HHS must continue its efforts to partner with groups like the Health IT Now Coalition and our member organizations to get a clear message out, and we have communicated that to Dr. Blumenthal.

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