Blumenthal: We're Not Pushing too Hard
David Blumenthal, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology, recently said federal officials have heard the concerns of the proposed meaningful use rule "loud and clear." But in a June 14 blog entry on ONC's Health IT Buzz page, Blumenthal's tone does not sound hopeful to those who advocate streamlined meaningful use criteria. Here's his argument:
"Introducing change in health care is never easy. Historically, adopting our most fundamental medical technologies, from the stethoscope to the x-ray, were met with significant doubt and opposition. So it comes as no surprise that in the face of change as transformational as the adoption of health IT - even though it carries the promise of vastly improving the nation's health care - some hospitals and providers push back. I resisted using EHRs while an internist in Boston, as I wrote in my blog, 'Why Be a Meaningful User.' Over time, however, I found that working with health IT made me a better and safer physician. Most importantly, my patients received better, safer care and improved outcomes.
"There are thousands of stories like mine across the nation. The question health care providers are facing today is whether we are pushing too hard, too fast to make this important change. I respectfully submit, no. In turn, I ask, 'Can we make these changes expeditiously enough?'
"Americans deserve better health care than they are currently receiving, and they need it delivered more efficiently. Every provider, every patient throughout our nation will benefit from the goals envisioned by the HITECH Act. Yes, this will be a challenge. While large hospital networks and smaller providers may be stretched to meet national health IT goals, it is not beyond their capacity for growth.
"Doctors and hospitals will not have to go it alone. Programs, such as our 60 Regional Extension Centers located throughout the United States, are working hard to ensure that providers have all the necessary resources to meet the challenge. The incentive program will then provide reimbursement to providers who have achieved meaningful use.
"This is the time to realize the promise of health IT. Information technology has improved every aspect of our lives, we need to channel information technology to improve our health and care. Providing patients with improved quality and safety, more efficient care and better outcomes is paramount. Physicians who adhere to the oath of Hippocrates believe we must act with all deliberate haste. More than two thousand years later, we can't forestall health care quality improvements, not when so many patients entrust their providers for the best care they can possibly deliver. As the saying goes, 'If not now, when?'
"I welcome your comments, and ask you to share your stories on how health IT has changed your practice."