ACC Education Sessions Previews: Health IT

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It's been a very big year for health IT as practices and hospitals scramble to install certified EHR systems as mandated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. There are incentives for early adoption of EHRs and penalties for those who wait too long. The bright spot is that the electronic connection afforded by enterprise-wide EHRs should lead to better efficiencies, improved patient care and a healthy return on investment, albeit, the last metric is more of a long-term ROI.

"Widespread adoption of EHRs holds great promise for improving healthcare quality, efficiency and patient safety," said National Coordinator for Health IT David Blumenthal, MD, in December when CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT announced the proposed definition for meaningful use regarding EHRs.

CMS has proposed a three-staged definition of meaningful use to address concerns that technology is likely to evolve over the next few years. Stage 1 would begin in 2011 and would require basic use of an EHR. Stages 2 and 3 will include increased requirements.

"The proposed meaningful use rule, if finalized, will codify a $17.2 billion dollar program that provides large financial incentives to practices that adopt EHRs," said James Tcheng, MD, co-chair of the ACC Health IT Committee and an interventional cardiologist at the Duke Heart Center in Durham, N.C.

Change on such a grand scale as this can be challenging. In fact, earlier this week four chief information officers provided testimony before the Implementation Workgroup federal panel, which reports to Blumenthal, on the challenges they foresee in implementing EHRs, under the current definition outlined in the interim final rule of meaningful use.

The four CIOs said they are concerned about CMS's new increased reporting requirements for both the quality and functional measures for meaningful use and the resulting burden it could place on the organization. They also said that the timeframe for adoption is challenging as processes will have to be redesigned, personnel will have to be trained and "strong leadership and coaching will be needed to support the paradigm shift that each caregiver must experience."

No matter what happens on Capitol Hill, this horse is out of the barn and running at full speed. No one disputes that EHRs will benefit many layers of the healthcare process. What is questionable is whether many smaller practices and facilities can adopt EHRs in a timely fashion to reap the financial incentives offered by the government, rather than be penalized for adopting too late.

At ACC.10, which begins on Saturday, March 13, there will be many sessions dedicated to health IT. Cardiovascular Business News will help you navigate ACC.10. To get our daily news updates of education sessions from ACC.10 delivered to your inbox or mobile device, be sure you're signed up for Cardiovascular Business News at here.

For educational sessions related to health IT, as well as other details, consult the session program onsite or visit here. To download a PDF of conference sessions, click here. To download the program to a mobile device, click here or click here from within your mobile browser to download directly.  You can also download the final program to your eBook reader here.