HITECH’s Fundamental Assumptions and Plans

Posted on February 27, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I was browsing through a document on the House Ways and Means website and I was really interested in what I found listed for what I believe is the basic assumptions and plans Congress and the House used to pass the HITECH act through congress.

Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act

Health information technology helps save lives and lower costs. This bill accomplishes four major goals that advance the use of health information technology (Health IT), such as electronic health records by:

  • Requiring the government to take a leadership role to develop standards by 2010 that allow for the
  • nationwide electronic exchange and use of health information to improve quality and coordination of care.
  • Investing $20 billion in health information technology infrastructure and Medicare and Medicaid
  • incentives to encourage doctors and hospitals to use HIT to electronically exchange patients’ health
  • information.
  • Saving the government $10 billion, and generating additional savings throughout the health sector,
  • through improvements in quality of care and care coordination, and reductions in medical errors and duplicative care.
  • Strengthening Federal privacy and security law to protect identifiable health information from misuse as the health care sector increases use of Health IT.

As a result of this legislation, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that approximately 90 percent of doctors and 70 percent of hospitals will be using comprehensive electronic health records within the next decade.

The opening line underscores what I believe is their basic assumption “Health information technology helps save lives and lower costs.” The main problem with this assumption is that it’s not complete. A more complete assumption would be “Well implemented and designed health information technology helps save lives and lower costs.” Unfortunately, you can take a look through this long list of cases to see that poorly implemented EHR can do just the opposite. My strongest hope is that doctors will understand this and choose an EHR wisely instead of focusing on the potential stimulus money.

We could discuss many of the other points in more detail, but the one that stood out to me was the purported $10 billion in government savings from the HITECH Act. At least all of the other bullet points had a section in the document which at least at a high level described how it would be done. Somehow the description of how the HITECH Act would achieve $10 billion of government savings was missing from the document.

Can we seriously believe that the $10 billion in government savings from the HITECH act is anything but conjecture? I can’t remember the last time I looked at my savings and it ended on a nice round number like this. Maybe this calculation was done in the math class I never took in college.

I’m not saying that HIT can’t save the government money. I’m a huge proponent of leveraging technology to save money and improve quality. I just wish the HITECH act would tell me how they think this is going to happen.