Health IT industry leaders are divided on how important the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling to uphold the federal health reform law will be to the progress of health IT initiatives, InformationWeek reports (Terry, InformationWeek, 6/28).
On Thursday, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling upheld the major elements of the reform law.
Health IT Implications of Ruling
The Supreme Court ruling clears the way for health care providers to continue working on health IT projects related to the implementation of the reform law.
Although the reform law does not directly address health IT adoption, some of the law's Medicare programs give preference to health care providers who have installed electronic health record systems.
Other health IT-related provisions of the reform law include:
- Demonstration projects for accountable care organizations, which use IT tools;
- New collection and reporting responsibilities on health care disparities;
- New health care-associated data collection by the Internal Revenue Service;
- New operating rules to standardize HIPAA transactions;
- Online-based insurance exchanges at the state level; and
- Web-based enrollment for health care and human services programs.
Ruling Does Not Affect Meaningful Use Program
The Supreme Court ruling does not affect the meaningful use program, which was created by the 2009 federal economic stimulus package, not the 2010 health reform law. Under the stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR systems can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments (iHealthBeat, 6/28).
How a Different Ruling Would Have Affected Health IT
Although health IT industry observers agree that the Supreme Court's decision validates the reform law's health IT-related provisions, they are divided about whether a decision striking down the law would have affected health IT efforts.
Bruce Merlin Fried -- a health care attorney with SNR Denton in Washington, D.C. -- said that if the court had ruled that the reform law was unconstitutional, "it would have thrown the entire health care system into chaos, as everyone tried to understand the implications."
He said that as a result, CFOs likely would have halted spending until the situation was clearer.
However, Steve Bernstein -- head of the health care law practice of McDermott Will & Emery in Boston -- said that had the Supreme Court struck down the entire law, "I don't think it would have mattered."
Bernstein said there would have been "a momentary pause by providers and health plans," but the market has driven reform efforts for the past two years (InformationWeek, 6/28).
Health IT Industry Leaders Look Ahead
Dave Roberts -- vice president of government relations at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society -- said the high court's decision means hospitals will begin to see a drop in uncompensated care, which will allow them to increase their investments in health IT beyond EHRs (Goedert, Health Data Management, 6/28).
William Bria -- chair of the Association of Medical Directors for Information Systems and corporate director for medical informatics at Shriners Hospitals for Children -- said that because the health reform law incentivizes wellness over episodes of care, patients will turn to technology to become more engaged in their health care.
Steven Davidson -- senior vice president and chief medical informatics officer for Maimonides Medical Center in New York -- noted that the reform law will place more focus on caring for specific populations, rather than just individuals. He said that the challenge will be that "the vast majority of physicians in practice today ... have never trained to do population health care" and that "the vendors are really just beginning to deliver population health tools" (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 6/28).
Roberts noted that patient identification also is a challenge. He said, "If a nationwide solution isn't proposed, it will be difficult to implement nationwide exchange of data" (Health Data Management, 6/28).