The House of Representatives passage Sunday night of the historic healthcare reform bill means 32 million Americans who don't have healthcare coverage will soon be able to get it. And while the Affordable Health Care for America Act is clearly the biggest change to the nation's healthcare system in 40 years, the wheels of healthcare reform really started spinning last year with the passage of the HITECH bill.
The House of Representatives passage Sunday night of the historic healthcare reform bill means 32 million Americans who don't have healthcare coverage will soon be able to get it. And while the Affordable Health Care for America Act is clearly the biggest change to the nation's healthcare system in 40 years, the wheels of healthcare reform really started spinning last year with the passage of the HITECH bill.The federal government's $20 billion HITECH stimulus funding program to get hospitals and doctors "meaningfully" using health IT to capture and share patient data is actually what's already spurring the biggest revolution in healthcare, at least in terms of the day-to-day work of healthcare professionals.
Of course, the impact of that healthcare IT-driven revolution of hinges on whether a majority of doctors and hospitals--as hoped by the federal government--get on board using health IT systems, such as e-medical records, e-prescribing, and computerized physician order entry--over the next five years.
The use of those technologies can not only squeeze out inefficient and costly paper-shuffling between and among patients, healthcare providers and insurers, those system can facilitate improved coordination of care, red-flag potential mistakes and problems, and boost quality of care.
Considering how other once paper-laden industries, like financial services, have long embraced electronic systems for transactions, data sharing, and record keeping, this movement toward digitalized health information is certainly long overdue.
However, with yesterday's passage of comprehensive healthcare reform, the government-incentivized push for health IT via the HITECH bill last year really came in a nick of time.
Many of the 32 million Americans who'll soon have healthcare coverage will not only have new access to preventative care, disease management and other services that can help extend lives and cut costs, but hopefully many of these newly covered patients will also benefit from cost-saving and quality-of-care enhancing attributes of healthcare IT as these systems are being rolled out, thanks to the HITECH bill.
Certainly, within the 2,000-plus page Affordable Healthcare for America Act, there are several mentions of health information technology related to the dissemination of information, pay-for-performance, and telemedicine. But with the passage of the HITECH bill more than 13 months ago, reform to healthcare is already rolling.
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