12 AHRQ Funded Meaningful Use Stage 3 Projects to Watch

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5 Years After HITECH Act, Health IT Improving Care for Patients and Families

5 Years After HITECH Act, Health IT Is Improving Care for Patients and Families

Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families issues statement on how health IT is improving care for patients and families on the 5 year anniversary of the HITECH Act. 

“Five years after enactment of the Health Information Technology and Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act on February 17, 2009, health information technology (IT) is helping to improve the experiences of patients and families and transform our health care system.

Patients and families have much to gain from the “Meaningful Use” incentive program and are watching its progress. Meaningful Use criteria are giving patients unprecedented access to their health information. Many can now view online, download and transmit their own health records. They have access to their health information within hours or days of clinical visits or hospital discharge, instead of months. They can email their doctors and contribute to and correct their health records.

Health IT is helping to facilitate much-needed culture change by empowering patients. Policymakers, providers, health plans, employers and consumer advocates all agree that patients should take a more active role in managing their health and care, in order to achieve better care, better outcomes and lower costs. By facilitating access to their own health information and easy, electronic communication with their providers, health IT is enabling patients and families to become partners in their health and care, improving our entire system.

Health IT is also essential to reforming our health care delivery system.  The success of new payment models depends on our ability to effectively measure the quality of care and begin paying for value, not volume. It’s impossible to measure and reward care quality effectively without robust electronic health information infrastructure in place, which is why health IT is increasingly incorporated into new payment models and proposals to replace Medicare’s flawed physician payment formula.

Going forward, we need to ensure that all patients have access to their own health information and all providers have secure electronic health records systems capable of coordinating care across multiple settings. We need to build on the Meaningful Use program and significantly improve health IT to identify and reduce health disparities—a pervasive and costly problem.  Ensuring full access to health information in languages other than English, for example, is essential.  And we need to use health IT to help patients and families achieve their personal health goals by giving them the electronic care planning tools they need and want.

America’s patients and consumers need access to their health information anytime, anywhere.  On this fifth anniversary of the HITECH Act, it is worth pausing to appreciate the strategic approach Congress used to move electronic health IT technology forward, and to acknowledge the hard work of federal and state officials and stakeholders across the country.  But much more work remains to fully implement health IT in ways that help our health care system meet the needs of patients, caregivers and providers. We have a responsibility to patients and families to finish the job.”

About Debra L. Ness

For more than three decades, Debra Ness has been a strong advocate for fairness and social justice. Drawing on an extensive background in health and public policy, Ness possesses a unique understanding of the issues that face women and families at home, in the workplace, and in the health care arena. Before assuming her current role as president, she served as executive vice president of the National Partnership for 13 years. Ness has played a leading role in positioning the organization as a powerful and effective advocate for today’s women and families.

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