Health Affairs’ August issue, released today, covers a range of topics, including changes in health care delivery and financing sparked by the rise in health information technology (HIT) adoption. In the United States, progress in health IT adoption has been fueled in large part by the nearly $30 billion in incentives authorized by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009. Founding editor John Iglehart observes that, “Strides forward have been steady, if uneven among different provider groups. Yet the end of the journey toward universal adoption of electronic health records is still years away.”
Notable articles include:
Achieving Meaningful Use In HIT: Some Hospitals Falling Behind. With nearly $30 billion in incentives available to US hospitals, to what extent have hospitals adopted electronic health record (EHR) systems that meet Medicare’s criteria for their “meaningful use”? Catherine DesRoches of Mathematica Policy Research Institute and coauthors analyzed Medicare data; they found a substantial increase in the percentage of hospitals receiving EHR incentive payments between 2011 (17.4 percent) and 2012 (36.8 percent). However, this increase was not uniform across all hospitals: critical access, smaller, and publicly owned or nonprofit hospitals appeared to be at particular risk for failing to meet Medicare’s meaningful-use criteria. Because hospitals failing to meet the criteria will be subject to financial penalties beginning in 2015, the authors recommend providing additional information technology workforce support, targeted grant programs, and close monitoring of the EHR vendor market to ensure that all hospitals have access to the technology they need.
Hospital Electronic Health Information Exchange Shows Improvement. Some encouraging findings are reported in a study by Michael Furukawa and coauthors of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Department of Health and Human Services. Using national surveys of hospitals from 2008 to 2012, the authors found that in 2012 nearly six in ten hospitals actively exchanged electronic health information with providers and hospitals outside their organization, an increase of 41 percent since 2008. They also determined that EHR adoption and health information organization participation were associated with significantly greater hospital exchange activity, but the majority of hospitals still do not exchange clinical care summaries and medication lists. To address these deficiencies, the authors point to existing initiatives, such as the State Health Information Exchange Cooperative Agreement Program, to assist hospitals and help prepare to meet stage 2 meaningful-use requirements.
Read the rest of this entry »