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.