In a New England Journal of Medicine perspective piece, National Coordinator for Health IT David Blumenthal discusses the federal government's plans and objectives for implementing the health IT provisions of the 2009 federal economic stimulus package, also known as the HITECH Act.
Blumenthal writes that the stimulus package's health IT provisions "are best understood not as investments in technology per se but as efforts to improve the health of Americans and the performance of their health care system."
He adds that the ultimate purpose of the HITECH Act is to encourage health care providers to leverage health IT tools to achieve quality and efficiency goals.
To accomplish these objectives, the HITECH Act includes an incentive payment program for health care providers who demonstrate "meaningful use" of electronic health record systems.
The act also includes several mechanisms designed to help health care providers achieve meaningful use of EHRs. Such initiatives include:
- Certification programs for EHR systems;
- Regional health IT extensions centers;
- The Nationwide Health Information Network; and
- State grants to promote health data exchange.
Blumenthal writes, "It is impossible to imagine a high-performing U.S. health system that does not take full advantage of the computing technology that has transformed virtually every other aspect of human endeavor."
He concludes that the programs established under the HITECH Act "strive to create an electronic circulatory system for health information that nourishes the practice of medicine, research and public health, making health care professionals better at what they do and the American people healthier" (Blumenthal, New England Journal of Medicine, 2/4).