34 Billion

The Federal government has committed more than 34 billion dollars to improving the nation’s Health Information Technology (HIT) Infrastructure. The goal is to have an interconnected network of EHR systems that can exchange information with hospitals, pharmacies, health insurance companies, public health, and other entities. This Health Information Exchange (HIE) should allow the necessary patient information to flow through our health system in an efficient manner to improve the patient’s quality of care.

This sounds great but how do we get there? Many physicians have concerns about cost. CMS has developed incentive programs to give physicians up to $64,000 to adopt EHRs and become meaningful users of the technology. Is that enough? One would think that it certainly should help relieve the cost burden that providers have to bare. However, there are many other concerns such as security of the information. Who is actually going to have control of all this data? Many technology companies that have not traditionally been in the HIT space are jumping in to create new technologies that are intended to make the physician’s job easier. Will our patient information be secure in the hands of these companies?

The objectives are lofty and the road is full of obstacles but if successful we can certainly have a more efficient health system that improves coordination of patient care as well as patient safety. Certified EHRs provide clinical decision support that can aid the provider with evidence based protocols to improve disease management and quality within the practice. The patient will also be able to communicate more efficiently with their doctor.

The national HIT initiatives give us reason to hope for a better Health System.  We must remember that there are countries such as England and Sweden that have a much higher rate of adoption and more efficient Health Systems. So this is not something that cannot be done.

What do you think about the privacy and security of patient information on this new information highway? If you are a provider, what difficulties are you experiencing with the adoption of EHR? If you are a patient, how do you feel about your provider having EHR in their practice?

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