As I talk to people about the increase in IT projects related to the “Economic Stimulus” package (i.e. ARRA: American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009) I always get asked “are you getting funds from the government now?”. The answer is no, the government wrote the ARRA law using the carrot and stick approach.
The goal of the legislation is to encourage healthcare organizations to implement electronic health records to improve patient care. These are things like prescriptions need to be dispensed electronically, computerized physician order entry (CPOE), closed loop medication dispensing using bar codes on the meds, patients and care giver, etc. The goal being improved patient outcomes and care.
Once you have all records and processes (i.e., dispensing medication) in an electronic format you have a lot of data and information that can be used to improve treatment protocols, determine trends and measure the effectiveness of treatment (i.e., which physician, hospital, region, state, etc. have the best outcomes for treating specific diseases). This in turn should further improve the delivery of patient care resulting in better outcomes and reduced costs over time.
To encourage healthcare organizations to move forward the government is providing greater reimbursement for steps being implemented by 2011, 2012, 2013, etc. Meaning the sooner a healthcare organization has systems in place the more reimbursement they will receive. Starting in 2015 the penalty phase begins for those organizations that have not meet the goals defined in ARRA.
The ability to meet the deadlines is dependent on many factors; one major factor being will your system provider (the vendor you purchase your patient electronic medical record, radiology, lab, etc. systems from) modify or build the system to meet the government’s requirements. This all translates into a lot of growth coming to the healthcare information systems field.
I will soon start to get into more technical topics, but I wanted to provide a basic foundation to why I think technology is so cool and useful in healthcare. We are not just making a widget . . . we have a positive impact on patients.
I have been working in healthcare information systems for 14 years in North Carolina. My role has changed over the years as technology, systems, requirements, etc. have evolved. We have been through the early Internet, the dot com boom, Y2K, the dot com bust, HIPAA, Electronic Medical Record, virtualization and now the new requirements of the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The last item ARRA being a huge game changer for American Healthcare.
Electronic health record (EHR) technology is changing the way healthcare organizations meet the needs of their patients, physicians and employees. According to HIMSS officials:
“EHR technology is “meaningful” when it has capabilities including e-prescribing, exchanging electronic health information to improve the quality of care, having the capacity to provide clinical decision support to support practitioner order entry and submitting clinical quality measures – and other measures – as selected by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.” (from Healthcare IT News April 28, 2009).
This translates to increased requirements for overall computerized system availability. Clinical systems need to be architected to provide electronic health record services at all times in a flexible and secure manner. To achieve this level, a heavy investment in advanced technical infrastructure has to be implemented. The underlying information system technologies used to build a redundant, resilient datacenter are the network, storage, computing capacity, power, cooling, and adequate space.
All healthcare organizations will be required to provide “meaningful” EHR technology. Due to the technical complexity this will be a financial and technical challenge for many. The options available to organizations would be to build and maintain their own technology infrastructure, purchase applications from a provider (Software as a Service model), merge or consolidate with other organizations and or lease technology capacity.
We are at an evolution period for healthcare IT which will change the way healthcare is delivered in America. I am excited to be a part of it, shaping how we move forward.
My plan is to use this blog as a way to lay out my thoughts on healthcare IT with a focus of the underlying technology infrastructure. Key pieces being datacenter, compute capacity, storage, virtualization and application delivery.