Report: RHIOs not advancing health IT

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The development of regional health information organizations (RHIOs) may not be effective in advancing healthcare information technology, according to a new report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) in Washington, D.C.

The 23-page report, “Improving Health Care: Why a Dose of IT May Be Just What the Doctor Ordered,” said that "the strategy of building the network from the bottom up by establishing many RHIOs throughout the country is not working" and calls for “a renewed national strategy for advancing healthcare IT.”

The ITIF report identified more than 100 RHIOs that have been established across the country, but also found that the majority are financially unsustainable.

Healthcare IT is "a major driver of innovation and economic growth" that could revolutionize healthcare and improve quality, however too many obstacles still stand in the way of adoption, according to Daniel Castro, ITIF senior analyst and author of the study. Since “most of the benefits of healthcare IT accrue largely to parties other than healthcare providers, there is no convincing value proposition to encourage providers to make long-term investments in EHRs," he said. Privacy concerns also block adoption, he added. 

The ITIF recommended that Congress take immediate actions to help advance healthcare IT, including:

  • Pass legislation to promote the use of EHRs and national health data standards;
  • Create a legal framework for health record data banks;
  • Leverage federal resources to ensure access to health record data banks; and
  • Require medical practices to disclose patient information electronically, upon request.

The report comes at a time when healthcare IT advancement is on the rise. In late October, President Bush authorized the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to create guidelines for integrating IT into an interoperable health system to maintain patient healthcare records in the United States; and HHS has launched a new five-year demonstration program to financially reward physicians who use EHR systems in their practices.