Challenged by health IT? Tell me

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Kaitlyn Dmyterko - 17.10 Kb
Kaitlyn Dmyterko, associate editor

Much chatter has surrounded meaningful use and the benefits of health IT. And now, deadlines for physicians to be incentivized for EHR use loom. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently reminded eligible physicians to register for incentive payments for calendar year 2011 by Feb. 29, 2012. But as the deadline approaches, I wonder how advantageous various health IT will be.

A report this week showed that European hospitals spent a whopping $3.2 billion on heath IT in 2010 alone. A European health IT committee estimated that this number is only set to rise and expected growth to reach $3.5 billion annually by 2015.

While many have reported that the EHR has helped to streamline workflow and increase efficiency, a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association found that web-based diabetes management tools may be inefficient.

The study's lead author went as far as to say that the technology failed to be interactive, provide social support to these patients or help with problem solving. While the authors said that these types of programs may have the capability to improve outcomes, currently little is known about their effectiveness and usability errors.

Additionally this week, while one study outlined the potential benefits of medical homes, another found various barriers of its adoption.

In the first, Rich et al in the Annals of Family Medicine, found that a medical home model may be "promising" for sicker, more complex patients. This patient population may offer the most room for improvement in terms of lowering costs, improving outcomes and expanding on high quality care.

Another study, published in the Telemedicine and e-Health showed that while robotic telemedicine systems look promising, costs for the technologies and reimbursement are continuous barriers that slow progress. Additionally, nearly 50 percent of survey respondents noted that success was impeded by a lack of understanding and exposure. More education will be necessary to impart telemedicine on a larger audience.

Lastly, a study showed that tying together the EHR and clinical decision support systems can help improve blood pressure in all racial groups. Primary care use of EHRs with clinical decision support may mitigate blood pressure control disparities between whites and blacks, which could help to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in morbidity and mortality from CV disease.

While health IT obviously has advantages over paper-based filing systems, there are still many snags in the implementation process. Despite the clear benefits seen by the EHR, clinical decision support and e-prescribing, among others, the cost of the systems combined with the need for operator training and other requirements may hinder use.

What advice can you give to others trying to get incentive payments for health IT? How has health IT transformed your practice? Email me and let me know.

Kaitlyn Dmyterko
Cardiovascular Business, Assistant Editor