Health information technology adoption by the healthcare industry and its promotion by the federal government will continue apace with the political status quo largely intact after last week's election.
The federal push for healthcare IT had previously enjoyed bipartisan support, but last month HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius received letters from eight top-ranking Republicans in the House and Senate questioning the $27 billion EHR incentive payment program created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
“We don't think there's anything in jeopardy,” said Rich Hodge, senior director of congressional affairs for the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, the industry's largest trade group. “Certainly, the Congress has a tough job working on the deficit and the tax cuts,” Hodge said. “We think when they look at health IT and the stimulus law, they'll see this as part of the solution and not part of the problem.”
Another indicator that HHS, at least, is moving full speed ahead came during a meeting a day after Election Day when the federal Health Information Technology Policy Committee met to discuss Stage 3 meaningful-use criteria, targets providers won't have to meet until 2016, the final year of President Barack Obama's second term.
Dr. Farzad Mostashari, the administration's national coordinator for health IT, asked that the Stage 3 criteria require providers to exchange information using query and response technology. “Stage 2 was a giant step forward for health information exchange,” Mostashari said.
However, “the big missing piece,” he continued, is that “if I still go to an emergency room, they can't query my information. That's the first issue I want to put back on the table.”