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EHR implementation a foregone conclusion, ONC says

In addition to addressing health care reform, Dr. David Blumenthal, the national coordinator for health IT, took some time during his keynote at the First AMA-IEEE Medical Technology Conference on Personalized Healthcare yesterday to address an equally critical issue for physicians — electronic health record (EHR) implementation.

Blumenthal mentioned that his Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology received more than 2,000 comments on proposed meaningful use rules for EHR technology. Many of the comments were substantive, he said, and the ONC is considering some of their suggestions for changes to the final rule. Next up for the office are the temporary and final EHR certification rules under development.

No matter how the rules shake out, EHR implementation in the United States is a foregone conclusion, Blumenthal said. He sees the skills of collecting, using, searching and sharing health data electronically becoming part of the assumed professional skill set for health care providers, just as using a stethoscope is now.

In the next five to 10 years, hospitals will use their robust EHR systems to recruit physicians; solo physicians who succeed in implementing EHR will sell their practices more easily when the time comes, but solo physicians still using paper will not be able to sell their practices at all.

“Physicians and others will stop asking for the federal government to buy electronic health systems for them, because they are simply baked into the definition of being a professional,” Blumenthal said. “We don’t ask the federal government to buy our blood pressure cuffs, our stethoscopes, our EKG machines.”

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