It happened. The campaign season we thought would never end did, and after billions of dollars spent on thousands of inescapable TV ads, we now have ... the same leaders we had before Election Day.
After all the speculation and prognostication, come January 2013, Barack Obama will still be President, John Boehner will still be speaker of the House and Harry Reid will still be Senate majority leader.
So what does this mean for health IT?
It means that doctors and hospitals can move forward with implementing electronic health records, as well as Obamacare, which included many health IT-related provisions. It means that more patients will have the ability to view, print or download their health records through online patient portals. It means that accountable care organizations sharing information electronically among providers will be better able to coordinate patient care. It means HHS will collect data on quality to measure where we can do better.
I'm regularly asked if the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program is in jeopardy of being defunded by Congressional cost-cutting measures. The simple answer is, No. Health IT has long been a bipartisan issue, and it remains an oasis of harmony in a political landscape strewn with dissent.
HIMSS worked to ensure that both the Republican and the Democratic party platforms expressed their support for health IT, as did both parties' presidential candidates.
In these austere times of greatly constrained government resources, Congress has a responsibility to explore sensible ways to curtail costs and trim the federal deficit. However, I'm confident that when Congress carefully considers the well substantiated and significant potential of health IT to control health care costs, along with a high return on investment in improving patient care, lawmakers will continue their historically bipartisan support for the meaningful use program, including incentive payments.
Our elected officials recognize that without HITECH, we would not be nearly as far along this path to transforming health care. The meaningful use program is the mechanism by which we ensure we're getting value for our national investment. While it's been in operation less than two years, the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program already has resulted in significantly increased EHR adoption rates. The faster we keep this progress moving, the sooner we'll:
- Realize real savings in health care costs;
- Impact the quality of health care;
- Improve individual clinical care; and
- Realize the promises of real population health management.
HIMSS Analytics conducts an annual study on available information systems data and assigns Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model (EMRAM) scores to hospitals based on their stage of EHR implementation. The scores employ eight stages, delineating more specific categories of system implementation than the basic and comprehensive divisions used elsewhere. Stage 0 is an all-paper environment, while Stage 7 is a paperless environment with interoperable information exchange capability.
Since HIMSS Analytics introduced the EMRAM model in 2005, 9.1% of U.S. hospitals have achieved Stage 6 or 7 on the model. Similar to other facts and figures on the adoption of EHR systems, HIMSS EMRAM data also indicate clear upward adoption trends, at increasing rates. The number of hospitals achieving a minimum of Stage 5 or higher on the EMRAM model has increased from 8.7% at the end of 2010 (before the meaningful use program) to 21.1% as of September 2012. This increase at Stage 5 and above signifies a huge improvement in patient safety and efficiency of care.
Although as a nation we still have room to grow, EHR adoption has passed the tipping point in the U.S. The evidence suggests -- as a result of the HITECH Act and the substantial investment the public and private sectors have made in health IT -- there have been great increases in the adoption and meaningful use of health IT and EHRs.
HIMSS will continue to be a strong supporter of the meaningful use program and the incentive payments it makes available to providers making meaningful use of EHRs. We're also asking our legislators to move forward on a study to investigate how best to match the right patient with the right record, as we move toward an interoperable nationwide network. We're asking lawmakers to look into harmonizing state and federal laws affecting health IT, so that as records move across state lines, privacy protections move with them. And in every meeting with a member of Congress or staff, we're asking that Congress continue its strong bipartisan support for health IT.
Thanks to the wisdom of our lawmakers who created and continue to support the meaningful use program, we are surely and steadily moving toward system-wide interoperability and nationwide health information exchange capabilities. The value of that is something legislators from both sides of the political aisle can agree on.