What does the HITECH Act Mean to You?

Written by Carolyn Hartley, lead author, EHR Implementation: A Step by Step Guide for the Medical Practice (AMA, 2005) and certified EHR implementation project manager.

Even though the US Senate is likely to pass the stimulus package on Feb. 10, 2009, the House and Senate will need time to come to an agreement on their funding differences. The HITECH Act is still holding its own with the $20 billion agreed upon by the House for health information technology (see HITECH Provisions below).

Both the House and Senate are using terms like “meaningful use” and “shovel ready” when it comes to funding projects. For healthcare, is this likely to mean a physician or practice group has made a decision on its health IT system, they’ve completed readiness assessments, and built a strategy to move forward–all they need now is money?  Or, does this mean that money will be available post-implementation for provider quality improvement incentives?

In either case, the need for implementation consultants and project managers is great. “The hard part of this is that we can’t just drop a computer on every doctor’s desk,” said Dr. David Brailer, former National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, who served as President Bush’s health information czar from 2004 to 2006. “Getting electronic records up and running is a very technical task.” 

HITECH Provisions

            $18 billion through the Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement systems for hospitals and physicians who are “meaningful users” of HIT.

            $2 billion to the Office of the National Coordinator that must begin to be spent within 90 days of the legislation being signed into law on items such as the infrastructure necessary to allow for, and promote, the electronic exchange and use of health information for each individual in the United States; updating the Department of Health & Human Services’ technologies to allow for the electronic flow of information; integrating health IT education into the training of healthcare professionals; and, promoting interoperable clinical data repositories.

            $1 billion to be made available for renovation and repair of health centers and for the acquisition of health IT systems.

            $550 million for – among other things – the purchase of equipment and services including, but not limited to, health IT within Indian Health Service facilities.

            $400 million for comparative effectiveness research on how use of electronic data impacts healthcare treatments and strategies.

            $300 million to support regional and sub-national efforts towards health information exchange.

      $40 million to be used by the Social Security Administration to use EMRs to submit disability claims.

A good starting point is to complete a readiness and/or needs assessment. Several are available online, including one from the California Community Clinics EHR Assessment and Readiness Project.  http://www.chcf.org/topics/view.cfm?itemID=106553

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One Response

  1. The article pretty clearly states that they are working on proof of concept examples, but I think it’s understandable that they would share that information with the vendors prior to releasing it to the general public. ,

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