Report: Health IT central to healthcare debate

Health IT is taking a central role in the current healthcare debate, according to a report published by the Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital, George Washington University Medical Center and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)

The report, funded by the Princeton, N.J.-based RWJF, is a continuation of reports done in 2006 and 2008, which outlined the challenges to increasing EHR adoption. The current U.S. survey of hospitals was conducted by the HIT Adoption Initiative, in collaboration with the American Hospital Association.

According to the authors, there is broad bipartisan support to speed health IT adoption and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) has made promoting a national interoperable health information system a priority, authorizing significant resources to achieve this goal.

Among the findings were:

  • Less than 2 percent of non-federal general acute-care U.S. hospitals have a comprehensive EHR, and 7.6 percent have a basic EHR.
  • The individual functionalities most commonly reported as implemented across all units of the hospital were electronic viewing of laboratory (77 percent) and radiology reports (78 percent) and radiology images (78 percent). Approximately one in five hospitals reported fully implemented computerized provider order entry and clinical decision support.
  • Given the focus on financial barriers, additional reimbursement for EHR use and financial incentives for implementation were the policy options most often cited as likely to have a positive impact on adoption.
  • Between 2005 and 2008,168 pieces of health IT legislation were passed by states.
  • Two main barriers prohibit large-scale EHR use for collecting and reporting clinical quality measures. First, the current level of EHR adoption is dismally low in virtually all clinical settings. Second, adoption of records and systems with the capability to enhance and accelerate measurement and public reporting is likely even lower still.
  • Quality measurement and reporting, combined with the potential of meaningfully applied health IT, could prove to be the necessary accelerator for rapid improvements in the quality and efficiency of care Americans receive.

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