The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 was intended to be a boon to the economy on the heels of a tumultuous 2008. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) is a lesser-known stimulus program within ARRA that propelled the United States of America towards the digitization of personal health records. The benefits of having a digital instance of a patient’s longitudinal history are immeasurable for our healthcare system and everyone involved.
Gone are the days of pharmacists trying to interpret the right compound, dosage, and administration for all patient prescriptions because of some shoddy hand-writing and a fax machine that won’t dial. Lab results can be immediately analyzed and communicated to a patient’s care team to effectively begin treatment regimens or quell any fears that what happened in Vegas did in fact, not stay in Vegas!
Everyone stands to benefit, the patient can take their records with them where ever they go, providers can interpret the patient’s history from a common medical history framework, and the insurance companies don’t have to hire an army to sift through paper charts to make good on their coverage requirements.
The HITECH Act provided individual providers and hospitals monetary incentives to adopt an Electronic Health Record (EHR) system. Doing so is not a cheap endeavor. The HITECH Act also mandated a certain level of documentation needs to be captured on every patient that a provider sees. The proverbial string attached. This program was called, Meaningful Use (MU). At one point, there were more “MU Certified” software products in the marketplace than there were countries in the world.
Now, picture trying to start your Tesla with a Ford F-150 key FOB and that is what has become the process of communicating patient health records across the continuum of care. Odds are also pretty good that the surgeon performing your ACL surgery does not care whether you are a smoker but he’s now required to document that, a la MU.
Healthcare had to be pushed into the digital age and there was no good way to do it in a free market system. The policies created as part of the HITECH Act were created for the long-term benefits of the American people and presumably the healthcare system. Unfortunately, Meaningful Use is now known within the healthcare provider space as, Meaningful Abuse. Lack of interoperability and workflows that are irrelevant to specialists on the front lines created mismatched agendas. As such, MU has evolved to Promoting Interoperability to try and change the narrative around a system that was constructed with the data scientist in mind.
Is it any wonder healthcare is on its way to 20% of GDP?