Health IT sees pushback from ARRA

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It was only just a few short months ago that health IT proponents were basking in the glow of the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which included nearly $20 billion for the development and delivery of healthcare IT. The bill delivered on President Barack Obama’s inaugural address promise to “wield technology’s wonders to raise healthcare’s quality and lower its cost.”

The halcyon honeymoon of IT providing a fix for U.S. healthcare’s woes look to be coming to an end. Recent articles in the Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe and Forbes magazine (among others) have cast a skeptical eye on the capability of health IT to live up to its billing.

Critics are concerned that the health IT funding provisions of the ARRA will amount to little more than a tax-payer-funded giveaway to IT developers. In addition, they raise legitimate concerns about privacy as well as apprehensions about computer errors endangering patient safety.

The onus is on health IT developers to deliver secure, robust systems that will reduce medical errors, streamline workflow and enhance the quality of patient care. EMR advocates are well aware that the systems are not a magic bullet that will solve all of healthcare’s ills; like any tool, their results can only be as useful as the skill of the individual wielding them.

As attention in the vendor community shifts to the parsing of the term ‘meaningful use’ and its applicability to their product line, developers must remember to keep their focus on providing systems that furnish clinicians with the tools they need to dispense top-quality healthcare. If not, they run the very real risk of squandering the extraordinarily valuable opportunity to effect significant change to a healthcare system in crisis.

In other news, if the passage of the ARRA has you thinking about bolstering the health IT capabilities of your practice, check out our Healthcare Tech Guide. We have listings for vendors, systems, services and white papers for a variety of products spanning the healthcare environment.

Lastly, if you have a comment or report to share about the development or deployment of healthcare IT solutions in your practice, please contact me at the address below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Jonathan Batchelor, Web Editor