Report to Congress on HITECH: Significant progress in adoption and use of EHRs

Dr. Karen B. DeSalvo and Matthew Swain | October 9, 2014

Today HHS and ONC submitted the annual report to Congress on progress on the HITECH Act including health IT adoption, health information exchange and use of electronic health information to advance better care and better health. This report highlights progress and accomplishments in advancing a resilient and flexible health IT infrastructure for our nation.

In 2009 when the HITECH Act became law as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, health IT adoption among providers and hospitals was just beginning and moving slowly. Since that time, we have seen significant increases in adoption of certified technology amongst both sets of meaningful use providers. Three-quarters of eligible professionals and nine in ten eligible hospitals received incentive payments from the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.

There have also been significant advances in health information exchange. More than six in ten hospitals electronically exchanged patients’ health information with any providers outside their organization, a 51 percent increase since 2008. Seven in ten health care providers use an EHR to e-prescribe on the Surescripts Network, and more than half of new and renewed prescriptions are sent electronically.

In this past year, many of our federal programs have reached important milestones:

  • Our regional extension centers (REC) surpassed their goal and currently support over 100,000 providers demonstrating Stage 1 Meaningful Use.
  • ONC’s Health IT Workforce Development Program concluded in 2013, training over 20,000 students.
  • The State Health Information Exchange Program supported state efforts to advance exchange, resulting in 47 states and territories having directed exchange broadly available and 34 states with query-based exchange broadly available.

The 2014 congressional report highlights the recent accomplishments in the adoption and use of health IT as ONC sets a new course and navigates the future direction post-HITECH. The growing adoption of health IT, the success in digitizing the content of the care experience, puts pressure on the need for that electronic health information to be appropriately shared and used to improve health and care no matter the technology developer, information platforms, location, provider, or other boundaries.  Information sharing across all provider types and among individuals is vital for improving care delivery, along with individual and community health, which means the next steps for ONC is to help realize the power and promise of health IT by ensuring that data is collected, shared and used.

We are working aggressively to continue this progress.  The success in the collection of electronic health information described in this report to Congress needs to be built upon through advancing the sharing of health information through better interoperability.  To that end, next week, we will be sharing an early draft of a Nationwide Roadmap for Interoperability at a joint meeting of the Health IT Policy and Standards Committees.  This conversation will be one milestone towards realizing a shared vision to create a nationwide roadmap that will help to ensure stakeholders can connect care, improve health, and develop the health IT ecosystem that can be part of the larger learning health system.