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February 2012 St@teside

Further Incentives Needed for Electronic Health Records

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), part of the 2009 financial stimulus package passed by the Obama administration, gives doctors, hospitals, and other providers funding incentives to digitize and share health care records. Proponents of electronic health records argue that their creation will make a more efficient care delivery system that can reduce medical errors, while cutting costs by reducing duplicative tests and health care services.

A report by the Bipartisan Policy Center1 identified six barriers to successful health IT implementation, and made recommendations in each of the areas. Barriers include:

  • Misaligned incentives;
  • Lack of health information exchange;
  • Limited level of consumer engagement in using electronic tools;
  • Limited levels of electronic health record adoption;
  • Privacy and security concerns; and
  • Multiple federal priorities require focus and attention.

The report recommends private and public entities to align incentives to reward health IT and foster the adoption of common standards by June 30, 2013, and emphasizes the need for more education and implementation assistance. The report also recommends leveraging federal programs like the Beacon Community Cooperative Agreement Program to accelerate implementation of a more robust health information exchange, and by making lessons learned by the programs publicly available. The Beacon program is funded by the United States Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, and provides funding to 17 selected communities that have made progress in developing systems of electronic health records and health information exchange.

1The report was produced by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Task Force on Delivery System Reform and Health IT. The task force is made up of 32 members and is co-chaired by former Senators Tom Daschle and Dr. Bill Frist.