Diana Manos, Senior Editor
Getting healthcare IT up and running in doctors’ offices is not the main objective behind the incentives provided by the federal government under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to David Blumenthal, MD, national coordinator of health information technology.
Improving health is.
At the 17th Annnual National HIPAA Summit held Sept. 15-18 in Washington, D.C., Blumenthal called the HITECH Act — included in ARRA — “brilliant” and “a visionary piece of legislation.” With $20 billion allotted to the advancement of healthcare IT, he said, the law would lay the foundation for health reform in the nation.
The United States has never spent this kind of money on sharing health information and protecting it, he said.
Blumenthal told attendees at the summit how he came to embrace the importance of healthcare IT. He had never been a technologically oriented person, he said, but was asked seven years ago by the hospital where he worked to learn how to use an electronic health record.
“It wasn’t easy,” he said. “But I soon learned it was an enormous boon to me to be able to access my patients’ records outside of the office.”
Blumenthal said he started using EHRs in his practice and noticed it changed the way he was able to take care of his patients. He could access specialists’ reports, lab results and medications. “I knew more about my patients. I could tell my patients things they needed to know and couldn’t know in a timely way from their specialists,” he said. “Those are things that had real value to me as a clinician and to my patients. That is the value that made me convinced that these technologies were going to benefit me as a clinician.”
Privacy is critical, Blumenthal added, and “absolutely foundational” to realizing the vision that the Obama administration has for improving healthcare through healthcare IT. The advancement of healthcare IT through ARRA will only be successful, he said, if the public has confidence in the privacy and security of their personal health information and if physicians buy in.
“The use of IT has professional competence at its core, ” he said. “I believe in the future my colleagues will see value in healthcare IT. Treating medicine is about information. Part of competence will be knowing how to protect (personal health) information, and another part will be knowing how to access it.”
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