Thursday, June 17, 2010

Health IT - "Every provider, every patient will benefit"

National Coordinator for Health IT David Blumenthal has sent the strongest signal yet that requirements aren't likely to relax substantially from the proposed rule.  His latest post makes the case that providers and healthcare organizations have a principled obligation to adopt Health IT as contemplated by HITECH.  Blumenthal asserts that "while large hospital networks and smaller providers may be stretched to meet national health IT goals, it is not beyond their capacity for growth."

Adoption of Health IT
by Dr. David Blumenthal

Introducing change in health care is never easy. Historically, adopting our most fundamental medical technologies, from the stethoscope to the x-ray, were met with significant doubt and opposition. So it comes as no surprise that in the face of change as transformational as the adoption of health IT – even though it carries the promise of vastly improving the nation’s health care – some hospitals and providers push back. I resisted using EHRs while an internist in Boston, as I wrote in my blog, “Why Be a Meaningful User.” Over time, however, I found that working with health IT made me a better and safer physician. Most importantly, my patients received better, safer care and improved outcomes.

There are thousands of stories like mine across the nation. The question health care providers are facing today is whether we are pushing too hard, too fast to make this important change. I respectfully submit, no. In turn, I ask, “Can we make these changes expeditiously enough?”

Americans deserve better health care than they are currently receiving, and they need it delivered more efficiently. Every provider, every patient throughout our nation will benefit from the goals envisioned by the HITECH Act. Yes, this will be a challenge. While large hospital networks and smaller providers may be stretched to meet national health IT goals, it is not beyond their capacity for growth.

Doctors and hospitals will not have to go it alone. Programs, such as our 60 Regional Extension Centers located throughout the United States, are working hard to ensure that providers have all the necessary resources to meet the challenge. The incentive program will then provide reimbursement to providers who have achieved meaningful use.

This is the time to realize the promise of health IT. Information technology has improved every aspect of our lives, we need to channel information technology to improve our health and care. Providing patients with improved quality and safety, more efficient care and better outcomes is paramount. Physicians who adhere to the oath of Hippocrates believe we must act with all deliberate haste. More than two thousand years later, we can’t forestall health care quality improvements, not when so many patients entrust their providers for the best care they can possibly deliver. As the saying goes, “If not now, when?”


Chris Schneider said...

I agree, it doesn't sound like the requirements will relax from the proposed rule. There also seems to be the possibility that the final rule will require even more than the proposed does.

Does anybody know when we can expect the final rule? It was originally slated for April, and I've heard rumors it might come out in June, but the tone of Dr.B's letter doesn't make the release sound imminent.

The requirements are indeed substantial, and will hopefully produce the valuable improvements in outcomes Dr.B mentions. However, I have the sense that people (and maybe more importantly, EHR vendors) are understandably hesitant to commit to action until clear requirements are defined. I look forward to them.

Michelle W said...

With deepest respect for the hard work of Dr. Blumenthal and the ONC workgroup and committee members, I'd say that while nothing in meaningful use is impossible, it is of extreme difficulty to achieve in the limited time allotted, especially for small private practices that already struggle to keep costs down.

Also, that timeline has shrunk since we're in June without any proper guidance on how to get to the incentives funding. While many providers may be ready to make a good faith effort at adopting technology, they are not ready to blindly trust that their efforts will be compensated without some firm directions on how to go about it. As many have stated, I think the fact that we're less than seven months away from the start of Stage 1 (four months for hospitals) without any final rules or certified technologies has stunted adoption rather than encouraged it. Everyone's in a waiting game at the moment, even those planning to certify EHRs.