A move toward electronic medical records
The health information technology community spends the year 2010 like a vast army gathering itself up for war. At the center of the preparations and controlling much of the logistics was the federal government. In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act called for the creation of an array of programs to bootstrap the nation toward the goal first set by then-President George W. Bush in 2004, and adopted by President Barack Obama in 2009, to make electronic medical records available for most Americans by 2014. The major part of stimulus law-funded health IT promotions is the $27 billion electronic health-record incentive programs under Medicare, Medicaid and Medicare Advantage.
The first round of the meaningful-use criteria providers must meet to qualify for those federal incentives is released as a final rule in July. The first payment year for hospitals under the Medicare EHR incentive programs begins Oct. 1.
In November, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society releases results of its survey of more than 600 hospitals that found fewer than one in 10 hospitals could meet most of the meaningful-use requirements.
Medicare and Medicaid programs are late getting off the starting line. As the year ends, neither is signing up hospitals in their IT incentive programs, although enrollment capabilities for Medicare and for 10 states under Medicaid are expected to be in place in 2011.
The stimulus law appropriated $2 billion to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to finance, chiefly through grants and contracts, the bulk of the programs set up in 2010 other than those for direct EHR incentive payments. One of them is the $250 million Beacon Communities program in which 17 U.S. cities or regions are awarded federal grants. The goal is to set up cutting-edge programs for the use of health IT to “tap the best ideas across America and demonstrate the enormous benefit health IT will have to improving health and care within our communities,” says HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.