Major Progress in Doctors’ and Hospitals’ Use of Health IT
Dr. Farzad Mostashari | February 17, 2012
The HITECH Act, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, put in place new incentives for doctors and hospitals to help them make the investment in electronic health records (EHRs). It also made a very important distinction: that health IT is not just about the technology, it’s how we use the technology to improve care. It has moved health care in a direction that isn’t just about more technology it’s about using that technology in a way that’s going to be meaningful to patients.
Health IT Statistics
Today, we’re announcing that the use of health IT is becoming more widespread. Health IT statistics show that the number of hospitals using health IT has more than doubled in the last two years, from 16 to 35 percent between 2009 and 2011. And, according to the same survey, 85 percent of hospitals in the United States now report that by 2015 they intend to take advantage of the incentive payments made available for doctors and hospitals through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs (EHR Incentive programs).
To help make the switch to health IT and EHRs, we are providing incentive payments to eligible health care professionals and hospitals. We have also created a nationwide network of 62 Regional Extension Centers to help providers take advantage of those incentives.
Health IT Workforce
What’s more, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of health IT jobs across the country is expected to increase by 20 percent from 2008 to 2018, a pace much faster than the average for all occupations through 2018.
To meet the demand for workers with health IT experience and training, we’re launching new workforce training programs. Training is provided through 82 community colleges and nine universities nationwide. As of January 2012, more than 9,000 community college students have been trained for health IT careers and another 8,706 students have enrolled. And as of February 2012, participating universities have enrolled more than 1,200 students and graduated nearly 600 post-graduate and masters-level health IT professionals, with more than 1,700 expected to graduate by the summer of 2013.
Two other workforce training programs have resulted in the development of a health IT workforce curriculum and a health IT worker competency examination.
Privacy and Security Safeguards
Health IT can help keep information private and secure. In addition, federal laws require key persons and organizations that handle health information to have policies and security safeguards in place to protect health information—whether it is stored on paper or electronically.