05:22 PM

E-Health Records Planned Despite Stimulus Uncertainty

More than 50% of healthcare providers surveyed by IVANS do not believe the federal stimulus package will successfully encourage health IT adoption.

Although a majority of healthcare providers remain skeptical about how they'll benefit by the federal government's $20 billion stimulus program, many plan to forge ahead anyway, according to a report released this week.

About seven in 10 healthcare providers believe electronic medical records will have a positive impact on their businesses and patient care, but 80% say the lack of money is their biggest obstacle to deploying health IT systems, said the new report by IVANS, a supplier of EDI and network services to the insurance industry.

The nationwide, e-mailed survey of 508 healthcare providers -- including hospitals, clinics, private medical practices, nursing homes, home healthcare organizations and medical billing companies -- found that while nearly 40% plan to forge ahead with e-medical record deployments within the next 12 months, more than 50% of healthcare providers do not believe the federal stimulus package will successfully encourage health IT adoption.

Healthcare providers' doubt appears to be rooted to several factor, most notably uncertainty about the specifics of the government's eligibility requirements for receiving HIT-related rewards. Starting in 2011, the federal government is expected to begin awarding approximately $20 billion over the next five years, rewarding higher Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to doctors and hospitals that demonstrate "meaningful use" of health IT.

However, the details of what will constitute "meaningful use" haven't been worked out yet. The federal government is in the process of investigating and defining the scope of what "meaningful use" of health IT will qualify for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009's HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) stimulus funding incentives. Just this week, a federal advisory panel -- the HIT Policy Committee -- unveiled some of its recommendations for the "meaningful use" definition.

"They're on the right track," said Clare DeNicola, IVANS CEO, of the HIT Policy Committee's recommendation so far to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services about the "meaningful use" definition. "It's not about technology, it's about the care -- we can't lose sight of that," she said about the committee's suggestions for how IT can be used for improving quality of patient care and public health.

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