What Does the HITECH Act Mean to You?

By Carolyn Hartley, Healthcare Authority & EHR Consultant
Visit www.hipaa.com

Even though the US Senate is likely to pass the stimulus package in the next day or two, the House and Senate still have to come to an agreement on their funding differences. The HITECH Act is still holding its own with some possible additions to the $20 billion agreed upon by the House.

Key words used by both House and Senate are “meaningful use” and “shovel ready”. In other words, everything is set in place ready to go, but just needs money to get it off the ground. You’ve made a decision on your health IT system, you’ve completed your readiness assessments, and you’ve built a strategy to move forward. All you need now is money. Where do you fit in the funding equation below?

  • $18 billion through the Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement systems for hospitals and physicians who are “meaningful users” of HIT.
  • $2 billion to the Office of the National Coordinator that must begin to be spent within 90 days of the legislation being signed into law on items such as the infrastructure necessary to allow for, and promote, the electronic exchange and use of health information for each individual in the United States; updating the Department of Health & Human Services’ technologies to allow for the electronic flow of information; integrating health IT education into the training of healthcare professionals; and, promoting interoperable clinical data repositories.
  • $1 billion to be made available for renovation and repair of health centers and for the acquisition of health IT systems.
  • $550 million for – among other things – the purchase of equipment and services including, but not limited to, health IT within Indian Health Service facilities.
  • $400 million for comparative effectiveness research on how use of electronic data impacts healthcare treatments and strategies.
  • $300 million to support regional and sub-national efforts towards health information change.
  • $40 million to be used by the Social Security Administration to use EMRs to submit disability claims.

A good starting point is to complete a readiness and/or needs assessment. Several are available online, including one from the California Community Clinics EHR Assessment and Readiness Project.