Lieber: Maintain IT momentum
Healthcare IT needs continued support to make a truly connected system
For the past year, much of the focus in the health information technology world has been on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and the resulting regulations issued in December 2009. We should take a moment during this implementation phase to reflect on how we got here.
This public-private collaboration actually began in 2001, when then-President George Bush started the nation down this path. In that administration, through the leadership of two HHS secretaries, Tommy Thompson and Michael Leavitt, there was a powerful catalyst of federal support for the private sector to advance outcomes using health IT.
Now, the current administration and President Barack Obama share this vision, one that offers improved patient care with health IT and management systems as one tool that can update and integrate care delivery. This administration has provided the funding, and as current HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has noted, “the most promising sign for the future of our healthcare system is not what stakeholders were saying, but what they’re already doing.”
The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society also believes in this vision, and as a cause-based organization, has long supported federal funding for widespread adoption and appropriate use of health IT. With the leadership and expertise of our members, HIMSS offers readily available tools and resources to stakeholders needing to achieve meaningful-use status and earn their incentives. This distinct collection of educational offerings includes meaningful-use sessions at conferences held virtually and in-person to online educational offerings, plus the HIMSS Meaningful Use OneSource com- pendium of more than 400 online resources.
With the stimulus act incentives in place, the once-slow adoption rate of health IT has transitioned to a quickened pace of interest in and adoption of this technology. In fact, according to survey data released in January by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, “four-fifths of the nation’s hospitals, and 41% of office-based physicians, currently intend to take advantage of federal incentive payments for adoption and meaningful use of certified electronic health records technology.”
HIMSS Analytics now has 20 questions on meaningful use included in its annual survey of more than 5,000 U.S., non-governmental hospitals. Of the 999 hospitals that responded to the survey, 25% can meet 10 or more of the process core measures in meaningful use and meet at least five of the menu items.
Thus, as hospitals and medical practices consider their health IT options, many have already implemented—or begun to implement—this technology. Now, I believe, this collaborative juncture is truly at a strategic fork in the health IT implementation road where private and public sectors must stay committed to this process that is bringing the benefits of digital health information to patient care.
This evolution has led us to the crossroads of change. Caregivers can access information when and where they need it with the EHR. Secure patient portals enable patients to take part in, and take more control of, their healthcare. And as a result, rather than operate in silos, clinicians can interact with one another and use health IT to access data, order—or not order—tests, and thus, treat the patient based on interpretation of relevant and current medical information.
As this journey continues, our discussion in 2011 will seem antiquated in the decades ahead. For example, in 1961 when HIMSS was founded, leaders focused on bringing computers into the mainstream and into healthcare. The landline telephone was one of the most sophisticated pieces of equipment available for exchanging information then. Now, access to information is 24/7 on devices that even make a laptop seem a bit out of date.
For 50 years, HIMSS has advocated for improving patient care through the best use of health IT and management systems. At the 2011 Annual HIMSS Conference & Exhibition in Orlando this week, we celebrate not only the golden anniversary of HIMSS, but also the success of a collaborative journey that is taking the American healthcare system toward a smarter, better informed patient-care future.
You can visit himssconference.org for more information on the conference.