HHS Report: Adoption of Health IT Doubled in 2 Years
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has released a report showing that doctors' adoption of health information technology (IT) doubled in two years. HHS also announced new actions to speed the use of health IT in doctors' offices and hospitals nationwide, which will improve health care and create jobs nationwide.
While protecting confidential personal information, health IT can improve access to care, help coordinate treatments, measure outcomes, and reduce costs, HHS stated. The new administrative actions announced, made possible by the HITECH Act, will make it easier for doctors and other health care professionals to receive incentive payments for adopting and meaningfully using health IT.
"When doctors and hospitals use health IT, patients get better care and we save money," said Sebelius. "We're making great progress, but we can't wait to do more. Too many doctors and hospitals are still using the same record-keeping technology as Hippocrates. Today, we are making it easier for health care providers to use new technology to improve the health care system for all of us and create more jobs."
In addition to improving the health care system, data indicate that the national transition to health IT is creating jobs. More than 50,000 health IT-related jobs have been created since the enactment of the HITECH Act. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of health IT jobs across the country is expected to increase by 20 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations through 2018.
HHS also announced its intent to make it easier to adopt health IT. Under the current requirements, eligible doctors and hospitals that begin participating in the Medicare EHR (electronic health record) Incentive Programs this year would have to meet new standards for the program in 2013. If they did not participate in the program until 2012, they could wait to meet these new standards until 2014 and still be eligible for the same incentive payment. To encourage faster adoption, the secretary announced that HHS intends to allow doctors and hospitals to adopt health IT this year, without meeting the new standards until 2014. Doctors who act quickly can also qualify for incentive payments in 2011 as well as 2012.
These policy changes are accompanied by greater outreach efforts that will provide more information to doctors and hospitals about best practices and to vendors whose products allow health care providers to meaningfully use EHRs, HHS stated. For example, in communities across the country, the agency will target outreach, education, and training to Medicare-eligible professionals that have registered in the EHR incentive program but have not yet met the requirements for meaningful use. Meaningful use is the necessary foundation for all impending payment changes involving patient-centered medical homes, accountable care organizations, bundled payments, and value-based purchasing.
These efforts will complement existing outreach efforts to doctors and hospitals including the Obama administration's work to create a nationwide network of 62 Regional Extension Centers, HHS stated. The extension centers are comprised of local nonprofits that provide guidance and resources to help eligible health care providers participate in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs and meaningfully use health IT.