HITECH: Still musing on 'meaningful'

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Back in February this year, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) allocated roughly $19.2 billion for investment in EHR technology in the U.S. These funding provisions, contained in the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act,allow for providers and hospitals to be awarded funds for EHR implementation when demonstrating “meaningful use” of the technology.

The goal, set by the Obama Administration at that time, is to have nationwide use of EHRS by 2014.

In May, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) released its operating plan for implementing the HITECH health IT provisions.

In June, the  Health Information Technology Policy Committee, a Federal Advisory Committee to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS),  met to begin the process of defining “meaningful use” of EHRs.

In August, David Blumenthal, MD, the head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), said he was predicting the spring of 2010 as a possible date for a final definition of "meaningful use."

Once this definition has been released, health IT vendors will need to demonstrate that their products conform to it.

Which should leave about three years or so to deploy and implement the technology across the entire healthcare spectrum.

Although some of the HITECH funding has been disbursed by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and ONC's Blumenthal, there doesn't seem to be much of a sense of urgency on their part to speed up the process.

In the meantime, with approximately $18 billion left in the federal incentive fund, healthcare providers and health IT vendors are left on the sideline waiting for a meaningful definition of what an EHR is required to do.

In other news, if you’re looking to add to the healthcare IT capabilities of your practice, please stop by 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 HITECH and its implications for the healthcare IT systems in your practice, please contact me at the address below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Jonathan Batchelor, Web Editor