The HITECH Act was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 with an authorized amount of $25.9 billion to be spent in order to expand health information technology adoption around the country. Healthcare providers around the nation are encouraged to participate in technology upgrades with incentives for the adoption of electronic medical records (also known as EHR). The incentives will be provided through 2015, and at that point providers will be responsible for paying fines as a result of non-compliance.

Although the program is offering incentives, it’s hoped that the electronic records will be viewed as meaningful, rather than a forced behavior

The goal of the incentives is to get healthcare providers on board with the electronic health record process early. By educating providers and their offices about the benefits of electronic records, and other technology available for the healthcare industry, it is hoped that better electronic record systems will provide better outcomes for doctors and for patients.

Enabling coordination and alignment between states is another positive outcome of getting all providers on board with the same systems.

Establishing a guideline for electronic health records has been set as a national goal. Medical offices are expected to incorporate the use of electronic records for meaningful use. This is described as for e-prescribing, the electronic exchange of health information to improve care quality, and to submit clinical quality as well as other measures. The government has also defined the use of EHR’s in line with incentives in the following categories:

  • Engaging patients and their families
  • Improving population and public health
  • Reducing disparities in healthcare
  • Ensuring adequate privacy and security protocols for patients
  • Improving care coordination services

There are also core components of the program that must be implemented by healthcare professionals using electronic records. Ultimately, it will be much easier to track patient history and progress and electronic records will make it easier for patients transferring doctors or visiting specialists. Physicians and other healthcare offices will be able to quickly review patient details and obtain accurate information to help inform their course of treatment. These include:

  • Implementing drug to drug and drug to allergy tests to identify potential problems before they happen
  • Generating and transmitting prescriptions through electronic means
  • Recording the smoking status of all patients aged 13 or older
  • Recording demographics about each patient
  • Providing a clinical summary to each patient after they have completed an office visit
  • Generating electronic copies of health reports after each doctor visit when patients request this
  • Implementing the “one clinical decision” support rule
  • Keep a current list of active diagnoses for the patient
  • Report ambulatory measures of quality to CMS
  • Generate and maintain an accurate medication list
  • Generate and maintain an accurate allergy list for each patient
  • Record and chart vital signs for easy review for both patients and physicians
  • Generate protocols that protect the electronic information of patients
  • Allow for the exchange of electronic data on patients within various medical offices to improve patient care


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