Blog: Giving thanks for those making health IT adoption happen

What am I thankful for today?

The usual stuff. A loving family. My faith and my church home. Good health. An interesting job where I can put my skills to good use.

And—as a professional skeptic, this is weird for me to say—I'm also grateful for our government, or at least some aspects of it.

I'm grateful that President George W. Bush elevated health information technology to a national priority with his 2004 executive order creating the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and setting as a national goal that most Americans should have access to an electronic medical record by 2014.

I say that because I truly believe, as he apparently did, that information technology will improve the quality and efficiency of our healthcare system.

I'm grateful for the work of President Bush's appointees, Dr. David Brailer and Dr. Robert Kolodner, the first two ONC chiefs, who had little to no money to work with, but who worked diligently, effectively persuading oftentimes skeptical members of the healthcare industry to move the country toward the president's goal.

I'm grateful to those members of Congress who in 2009 were smart enough to realize we'd probably not get to the 2014 goal without direct government intervention, and who created and adequately funded multiple federal programs to boost adoption of EHRs while wisely tacking on the requirement that the systems be meaningfully used.

I'm grateful to President Barack Obama for having had the wisdom not to let politics get in the way of a good idea and for reaffirming President Bush's goal. I'm grateful for his appointed ONC leaders, Dr. David Blumenthal and Dr. Farzad Mostashari, for taking the blessings of this funding and the outlines of these programs and breathing life into them.

I'm grateful for all of the federal employees who've performed admirably over the past three years and for the thousands of citizen volunteers who've worked tirelessly on the dozens of health IT advisory committees and work groups, setting up these programs and running them since 2009. I wish I could name you all.

I'm also grateful for the 3,044 hospitals and the nearly 143,000 physicians and other eligible professionals and their staffs, so far, who have slogged up the learning slope to become meaningful users or at least implementers of EHRs under the Medicare and Medicaid incentive payment programs.

People of all political persuasions may—and often do—argue about the appropriate role of government in our lives.

I will argue that it was and remains an appropriate role of government to incentivize the adoption of health information technology. This was a good idea that has been, so far, reasonably well-executed. I'm grateful for that.

I would argue further that the EHR incentive payment program needs to be extended to all dentists, and to long-term-care and home health organizations, but that's just a wish. Maybe I should save that for Christmas.

Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn.



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