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What the health reform bill means for health IT

Last week’s signing into law of the historic health reform bill is expected to affect all hospital departments — and IT is no exception. In the days since its signing, many bloggers have pontificated on what the health reform bill means for health IT. Here we offer a small sample.

For starters, Margalit Gur-Arie succinctly points out the four objectives of the health reform bill “that will require massive HIT support — administrative streamlining, quality measurement, patient involvement and innovative care models.” Brian Ahier expands on this idea, noting that transparency, interoperability and standards are among the keys to the health reform bill. Taken together, the concepts offer “some interesting possibilities for mashups with existing data sources.”

And there will plenty of data. As Cheryl McEvoy points out, with health care coverage extended to more than 32 million Americans, there will be more appointments to schedule, more cases to log and more bills to file. That, combined with a more vigorous focus on preventing Medicare and Medicaid fraud, will only heighten the need for accelerated electronic health record (EHR) adoption, she writes.

Speaking at a conference in Washington, D.C., last week, Dr. David Blumenthal, the national coordinator for health IT, noted that grants have been made available to state organizations to help individual providers offset the costs of the health reform bill. It is in the states’ best interest to assist providers with EHR adoption, Blumenthal said, because this will allow them to plug into health information exchanges and then, “a nationwide, interoperable health system.”

Whether such a system will be realized remains to be seen. A lot of it depends on the fortitude — and creativity — of health IT professionals.

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