PERSPECTIVE 13.4 REALIZING THE FULL POTENTIAL OF HEALTH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

In a speech given to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in December 2010, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said, “In industry after industry, we’ve seen the power of information technology to bring down costs and improve customers’ experience. Imagine going back to the days when you had to wait at the grocery store while a cashier punched in all the hand-written price tags. Or wait for the bank to open every time you wanted to get cash. We’d never accept that. Health care shouldn’t be any different.”

She also commented on the use of electronic health records and the positive force they have on reducing errors, lowering costs, and increasing patient and physician satisfaction. This is an important impetus behind HHS’s commitment to and historic investments of Recovery Act funds in furthering the use of information technology, not only by sophisticated health care systems but also by those providers who are currently lagging in the use of technology.

In addition to providing funding for information technology (IT) to be used in health care, HHS has created Regional Extension Centers to help providers with the technical support needed to set up and run their health IT systems. It also provided grants to states so that they could create mechanisms for doctors and hospitals to exchange information with full protections on patient privacy.

The most important component of the effort provided incentive payments for adopting electronic health records (EHRs), which would be used to improve the quality of patient care.

Two years later, in early 2012, Sebelius announced major progress in both physician and hospital use of health information technology reporting, and said that the number of hospitals using health information technology (IT) had more than doubled in the last two years. She noted that nearly 2,000 hospitals and more than 41,000 doctors had received $3.1 billion in incentive payments to ensure meaningful use of health IT, particularly certified electronic health records.

This IT effort has not been without controversy, as some providers have stated they would rather incur the penalties associated with not using EHRs, penalties directed to occur by 2015.

EHRs have a significant impact on quality but are also necessary if health care providers are to achieve the type of clinical integration necessary to participate in ACOs and other CMS programs.

Source: K. Sebelius, Raising healthcare quality & lowering costs through health IT, President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) Release Health Information Technology Report, www.hhs.gov/news/imagelibrary/video/2010-12-08_press.html; and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announces major progress in doctors, hospital use of health information, News release, technology www.hhs.gov/news/press/2012pres/02/20120217a.html.

(Zelman 615-616)

Zelman, William N., Michael McCue, Noah Glick, Marci Thomas. Financial Management of Health Care Organizations: An Introduction to Fundamental Tools, Concepts and Applications,  4th Edition. Jossey-Bass, 2013-12-30. VitalBook file.

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