We Can’t Wait: New Steps Encourage Doctors and Hospitals to Use Health IT to Lower Costs, Improve Quality, Create Jobs

Nancy-Ann DeParle | November 30, 2011

When doctors and hospitals use health information technology (health IT), patients get better care and we can all save money. This results in less paperwork for billing, medical records, and prescribing; easier coordination of care among doctors, nurses, and pharmacists in hospitals and outpatient settings; and better reporting on quality of care. Thanks to President Obama’s leadership, the number of physicians using this important technology to help patients get better care and save money has more than doubled, from 17 percent to 34 percent, since 2008. And we can’t wait to do more.

Today, Secretary Sebelius announced that we are making it easier for doctors and other health professionals to adopt health IT and receive incentive payments that were made available under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. At the same time, we remain vigilant in ensuring your health data remains private, confidential, and secure.

Here’s how it works:

  • The HITECH Act offers doctors and hospitals the opportunity to earn financial incentives from Medicare and Medicaid if they show that they have adopted health IT and are using it to make a meaningful difference in patient care.
  • Under the current rules, providers who adopt health IT this year, and register through the end of February, must meet new standards for using health IT in 2013. If they do not adopt health IT until 2012, they don’t have to meet the new standards until 2014, and are still eligible for the same amount of incentive payment.
  • To spur greater innovation and improvement, Secretary Sebelius announced that she intends to adjust the deadline for meeting the new standards for providers who start this year to 2014, removing the disincentive for providers to adopt and use health IT right away.

During her visit today to Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland OH, Secretary Sebelius will also release new 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data that show that over half of office-based physicians say they intend to take advantage of the incentive payments available for doctors and hospitals that meaningfully use health IT. That’s impressive progress, but we know we can do more to improve the health care system through the use of health IT.

And we know that health IT can have a real impact on the lives of patients nationwide. The Sacramento Business Journal Exit Disclaimer recently reported on one way health IT is improving care:

Evelyn Lyons gets up hungry and wants to eat — but is supposed to check her blood sugar first.

Daily testing was hit-or-miss until she agreed to take text messages at 7:30 every morning to remind her do the test, record the results, and take her medicine.

Lyons is participating in a pilot program that helps diabetes patients and their doctors at Sacramento Family Medical Center manage a chronic condition that affects one in 12 Americans. It’s about one in seven at Sacramento Family Medical, which operates nine clinics in the region that serve patients on Medi-Cal, the government health care program for the poor.

Launched in August, the program has had a few bumps along the way, but it’s beginning to change behavior.

“I’m glad to be part of it,” Lyons said. “Before, I wasn’t taking it as serious as I should.”

Ultimately, the program is expected to lower costs.

We also know that this work won’t just make health care better – it will also create jobs. More than 50,000 health IT-related jobs have been created since the enactment of the HITECH Act. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the number of health IT jobs will rise 20 percent from 2008-2018, faster than the average for all occupations in that period.

Our Administration has launched workforce development programs that are training more than 10,000 students for careers in health IT and more than 1,700 are expected to graduate by July 2013. When they graduate, they will have training to get quality jobs, and the work they will do will make the health care system better for all of us.

To read more about how health IT can lead to safer, better, and more efficient care, visit http://www.healthit.gov/

And for more information about the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, see http://www.cms.gov.EHRIncentivePrograms