The Adoption of Health ITby Joseph Kim, MD, MPH | April 23, 2009
Dr. David Blumenthal is the newly appointed National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. You may have seen his name as the director of the Institute for Health Policy at the Massachusetts General Hospital (also known as “Mass General”) and Partners Healthcare System which is part of the Harvard hospital system. It’s too bad for Harvard. They’re losing a brilliant healthcare executive, but it’s for the greater good if he serves the nation. As the National Coordinator for Health IT, Dr. Blumenthal will be pushing for electronic health record (EHR) adoption in the United States.
In a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Blumenthal discusses some of the challenges that different stakeholders will face with the adoption of health IT. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will drive health IT or HITECH adoption. For many years, different groups have been pushing physicians to use EHRs. Only a small percentage of doctors have adopted change. The rest have resisted change. They have chosen to continue with paper charts and hand-written or dictated records. There are so many inefficiencies when you compare paper records to electronic records. Plus, EHRs may reduce medical errors if they are used properly.
President Obama is now using both the carrot and the stick to incentivize and penalize physicians. The incentives will be driven by Medicare and even Medicaid (for those physicians who still accept Medicaid). Will this increase EHR adoption? I’m sure that it will. However, there are still many challenges ahead for all the stakeholders involved.
So we have President Obama pushing for increased use of EHRs. Actor Dennis Quaid is a strong advocate of health IT and believes that EMRs in the hospital setting may reduce medical errors like improper dosing of blood thinners like heparin. Quaid even started something called the Quaid Foundation to raise the standard in medical care and reduce medical errors. Compute-based hospital records can produce automatic alerts and warnings that can remind clinicians that orders may be incorrect. The use of health IT may also significantly improve mental health providers who often try to coordinate care among multiple different healthcare professionals.
As consumers embrace electronic personal health records, there is an opportunity for healthcare professionals to engage patients and maximize the potential that health IT has to offer. We will certainly see some significant changes in the healthcare system over the next several years. My hope is that it improves the care of mental illness among patients who have mild, moderate, and severe mental illnesses.
Blumenthal, D. (2009). Stimulating the Adoption of Health Information Technology New England Journal of Medicine, 360 (15), 1477-1479 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp0901592
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