While French author and pilot Antoine de Saint Exupéry expresses a cautious cynicism toward the potential benefits of technological progress, health IT is currently being publicized as the cure-all for many problems in the U.S. healthcare system.
When President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) into law on Feb. 17, the legislation set in motion a plan to disseminate funds to healthcare organizations for the adoption of EMRs. The HITECH Act in the bill said that the systems need to be certified and must demonstrate ‘meaningful use' once implemented to obtain the allotted entitlements. Unfortunately, the government has yet to name a certification body, and the definition of ‘meaningful use' remains hazy. As a result, providers of varying sizes are currently in a holding pattern while these kinks get ironed out. Hospital executives want to ensure that they are adopting new or tweaking current systems that are in line with the stimulus to receive the designated incentives--which vary according to the size of the facility.
This past week, at the annual meeting of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) in Chicago, guest speakers attempted to sort through the intricacies of the ARRA. In general, HIMSS leaders seemed fairly optimistic that despite "challenges" that lie ahead, providers should begin implementing or upgrading EMRs now, to reap the rewards later.
And maybe the society's optimism isn't unfounded. Providers seem poised to adopt health IT. HIMSS released a survey of more than 300 hospital executives, who said that implementing clinical systems, including EMR and computerized physician order entry systems, remained a top priority, despite the economic downturn.
While health IT is being heralded as the solution to cure many failures in the U.S. healthcare system, HIMSS keynote speaker George C. Halvorson, chairman and CEO of the Kaiser Foundation, declared that it would "breathtakingly stupid" to make healthcare data electronic, and then still end up with the same isolated and inaccessible care system. He echoed the sentiment of Saint Exupéry by reminding caregivers to never lose sight of their goal in achieving better outcomes for the patient.
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Justine Cadet, News Editor