Economic stimulus package to offset costly EHR implementation
"Besides the overall impact of improving patient care through the adoption and use of standard electronic health records, AHIMA is pleased that Congress recognized the need for individuals educated and trained health information management and informatics to facilitate the adoption, implementation, and management of EHRs, and electronic health information exchange," says Dan Rode, MBA, CHPS, FHFMA, vice president of policy and government relations for AHIMA in Washington, DC.
Funds to assist in a variety of initiatives
The $19 billion in state and federal funds will be available through the National Coordinator, Health Resources and Services Administration, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, CMS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Indian Health Services to provide the following:
- An HIT Research Center that will render technical assistance and publish best practice guidance
- Regional centers to assist and educate providers as well as disseminate information from the Center to various regions of the country
- Planning and implementation grants for states or state-designated entities
- Grants to establish loan programs to state or Indian tribes for the purchase of certified EHR technology, provide training, or upgrade systems to meet certification requirements
- Competitive grants to fund demonstration projects to integrate EHR technology into the clinical education of health professionals
- Assistance in the creation or expansion of medical health informatics education programs at institutions of higher education or consortia of institutions
And it doesn't stop there. Aside from the planning and implementation grants and loans, the Act also creates several incentives for the adoption of EHRs. The allocation schedule (i.e., when and how monies will be distributed) has not yet been clarified.
Potential negative consequences for no implementation
Hospitals that don't jump aboard the EHR bandwagon could see larger—and negative—ramifications down the line, Apgar says. "In the future, Medicare may require providers to have an interoperable EHR that meets national standards as a prerequisite for participation. Medicare will use its buying power rather than regulation or statute."
But just because the funds are available doesn't mean that they will benefit every provider, particularly those who may not need a certified system that includes all of the bells and whistles, Apgar adds. "From a business standpoint, it may not make sense to accept a couple thousand dollars and put it in a system that doesn't do what you need it to do," he says.
Incentives could boost health IT jobs
Aside from creating an impetus to implement EHRs, the stimulus plan could also significantly spark employment in the HIT sector, according to a January 2009 report published by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a Washington think tank. ITIF estimates that a $10 billion investment in HIT would create as many as 212,000 new or retained U.S. jobs a year.
"It will definitely have favorable implications from an employment perspective for those in the HIT or HIM fields," says Daniel J. Pothen, MS, RHIA, CHPS, CHPIMS, CCS, CCS-P, CHC, director of clinical informatics and health information services at Mission Hospital/CHOC in Mission Viejo, CA.
Editor's note: To learn more about HIT initiatives, view the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Click on "bill text division A" in the "conference report" column for more specific information related to EHRs and Title XIII.
Lisa Eramo, CPC, is Senior Managing Editor of Medical Records Briefing, a monthly publication from HCPro, Inc.
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