Stimulus Keynoter Outlines Challenges

The $2 billion in information technology "jump start" funds within the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act puts the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in a difficult political position, said Dan Rode, vice president of policy and government relations at the American Health Information Management Association. He spoke at Health Data Management's Health IT Stimulus Summit in Boston.

The discretionary funds can be spent as National Coordinator David Blumenthal, M.D., sees fit, to advance development of a national health information network. "That's a real political decision for the ONC," Rode said. "We've given $2 billion to the office and said, 'Go out and spend it wisely.' We'll have governors and other policymakers across the nation deciding if the money was properly distributed."

Likewise, rules for Medicare and Medicaid incentives for meaningful use of electronic health records, particularly Medicaid, will be done in a highly political environment, Rode noted. And with that could come high reporting burdens for providers. "If these are the good goals, then how do we measure them and measure them in ways that don't become a burden themselves?"

Rode called on industry stakeholders to commit to:
* Use uniform sets of standards;
* Use uniform quality measures;
* Synchronize data and privacy laws;
* Work with states on how to spend ARRA funds;
* Strengthen health information management, health informatics, information technology and electronic health records education; and
* Work with vendors to meet industry needs.

--Joseph Goedert

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