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Fed Health IT Strategic Plan: What Do the Feds Need to Know

On March 25, the Office of National Coordinator at the Department of Health and Human Services announced the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan, which was last updated in 2008.  The plan is being updated in order to reflect the impact of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act and the Affordable Care Act.  The plan focuses on implementing key healthcare IT policies over the next five years through coordination between government agencies, the private sector and the public.

The plan outlines five goals: (1) achieve adoption and information exchange through meaningful use of healthcare IT (2) improve care, improve population health, and reduce healthcare costs through use of healthcare IT (3) inspire confidence and trust in healthcare IT (4) empower individuals with healthcare IT to improve their health and the healthcare system and (5) achieve rapid learning and technological advancement.  

The reports states that, “According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), only one quarter of physician offices use electronic health records.”  This squares with CompTIA’s own research.  While hospitals and health clinics have more rapidly embraced Electronic Medical Records (EMR), solo practitioners have been least likely to use EMRs.  Upfront costs are the biggest factors in holding them off from implementing EMRs.  Data security is a lesser factor.  Nevertheless, doctors also see the benefits of EMR adoption citing better patient care, improved efficiency and reduced risk of error as influential factors to adopt EMR.

The most effective advocate to lead small- and medium-sized medical practitioners to embrace EMR will likely be the healthcare IT service provider.  These men and women are the ones that can address and mitigate some of the factors that are barriers to adoption, while helping doctors to realize the benefits they expect in terms of improved patient care.  

As HHS seeks to update its plan and refine its policies, it is important that policies not only seek to expand the use of electronic health records, but also provide the appropriate infrastructure and IT knowledge base to do so.  There continues to be significant opportunity for service providers within the healthcare IT transition.  It is important, however, that policies and plans reflect the need for service providers and the important role they will play in the coming years.  Therefore, it is important to review the report and identify opportunities to improve the plan.  Public comments are being accepted until April 22.    Let us know what you think the Feds need to know.