As the push to implement new health information technology (HIT) among healthcare providers continues, many small physician practices offering services to Medicaid patients have shown a reluctance to adopt HIT, such as electronic health records (EHRs).
If these medical practices continue to resist implementing modern HIT systems, the situation threatens to widen healthcare disparities in the coming years, said Dianne Hasselman, director of quality and equality at the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS), at a recent public hearing on how technology can improve healthcare delivery among low-income populations.
Hasselman's gloomy assessment was delivered earlier this month when she offered her thoughts as part of a panel convened by the HIT Policy Committee's Meaningful Use Workgroup to discuss using HIT to eliminate disparities.
"Medicaid programs have been striving to actively engage small, high-volume practices in HIT adoption and practice transformation. These efforts have been very challenging for all parties with limited results to date," Hasselman said.
Modernizing the healthcare information technology infrastructure is a key element of President Obama's health reform program. To help facilitate this vision, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act established programs under the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to provide incentive payments to eligible professionals and hospitals as they adopt, implement, upgrade, or demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology. The programs begin in 2011, and are an essential part of the federal government's goal to provide every citizen with an EHR by 2014.
Hasselman's work with CHCS, a Hamilton, N.J.-based nonprofit health policy resource center dedicated to improving healthcare quality for low-income children and adults, led her to meet with solo practitioners in Oklahoma City, Detroit, and Philadelphia. She noted that while these physicians truly want to improve care for their communities, they are extremely reluctant to adopt HIT.