Ezekiel Emanuel: Results of HITECH Act 'Nothing Short of Spectacular'


In an opinion piece in Reuters' "The Great Debate," Ezekiel Emanuel -- vice provost and professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a former White House adviser -- argues that the results of the HITECH Act "have been nothing short of spectacular."

Under the HITECH Act -- which was part 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.

Emanuel notes that prior to the HITECH Act, there were "powerful disincentives" to health IT adoption, including:

  • Reduced productivity;
  • Lack of interoperability; and
  • High upfront costs.

However, the HITECH Act "nullified these disincentives" by helping to defray the cost of EHR adoption and empowering "the government to set technology standards regarding interoperability and the secure exchange of health information," Emmanuel writes.

He notes that "as of December 2011, the use of EHR [systems] among office-based physicians has nearly doubled to 34%" and that more than "41,000 physicians have received more than $575 million in incentive payments." The result was similar among hospitals, with 35% having adopted EHRs, and nearly 2,000 hospitals have collectively received more than $2 billion in incentive payments, according to Emanuel.

Still, Emanuel notes that there are some lingering concerns about the meaningful use program. "The program was built on the idea that you start with modest requirements to get physicians and hospitals on board and then escalate them to ensure a more robust system," he writes, adding, "People like me worry whether the escalation will really occur."

He concludes, "But whatever my reservations, we have had great success in spreading electronic health records -- and that is a sign that health care reform is changing American Medicine," adding, "All of us patients will benefit" (Emanuel, "The Great Debate," Reuters, 3/6).

Bobby Lee
HITECH Act is definitely working in making Health IT & EHR relevant and providing incentives toward massive adoption. However, in terms of workforce development programs, maybe a re-design is needed to add internship/on-the-job experiences so that those looking to change industries would not be locked out of so called “50,000” jobs.

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