Blumenthal Discusses Short-Term, Long-Term Success of HITECH Act

In a two-part perspective piece for the New England Journal of Medicine, former National Coordinator for Health IT David Blumenthal wrote that the success of the HITECH Act seems "inevitable," in part because "its failure is unimaginable," Becker's Hospital Review reports (Herman, Becker's Hospital Review, 12/27/11).

Under the HITECH Act -- which refers to the health IT provisions of the 2009 federal economic stimulus package -- health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health records can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.

The two perspective pieces -- titled, "Wiring the Health System -- Origins and Provisions of a New Federal Program" and "Implementation of the Federal Health IT Initiative -- looked at the health care system's progress in adopting health IT.

Evaluating Short-Term Success of Meaningful Use Program

Blumenthal -- now serving as a professor of health policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School -- wrote that in the short term, the success of the meaningful use program will be determined by the number of health care providers who adopt and use EHRs.

Blumenthal noted that as of September 2011, a "relatively modest" 3,880 health care providers had successfully met the Stage 1 meaningful use requirements for Medicare and received a total of $357 million in incentive payments.

He added that an additional 6,767 health care providers have received more than $514 million in Medicaid EHR incentive payments.

Evaluating Long-Term Success of Meaningful Use Program

According to Blumenthal, the long-term success of the meaningful use program will depend on whether it "improves the quality and efficiency of health care services and the health of Americans."

Blumenthal noted that it can be challenging to convince health care providers to share patient health data with competitors. However, he added that he is optimistic that the U.S. health care system will continue to move toward more widespread adoption of interoperable health IT systems.

He wrote, "It is inconceivable that the health system in the U.S. will indefinitely resist a force that is transforming modern civilization and that offers almost infinite promise for improved and more efficient care." He added that the next generation of health care providers -- "those weaned on the Internet, Twitter, Facebook, the iPad and the iPhone" -- will help propel the shift toward electronic health systems (Walker, MedPage Today, 12/22/11).

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