In 2009, there was an unprecedented focus on Health IT Policy. With large amounts of money in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act specifically budgeted to kick Health IT into high gear, it became a real and significant area for great scrutiny and discussion. Now, in 2010 and over the next decade, all participants in this arena need to shift from discussing policy to the real and difficult work of implementation. Going from the theoretical potential of Health IT to the actual hands-on, concrete applications will no doubt prove to be our biggest challenge to date.
When the Federal Government starts priming the pump with lots of money, it is no surprise that businesses line up to earn their fair share. But for Health IT to achieve its promised potential, profit cannot be the primary goal. We must maintain a focus on the real beneficiaries of this federal investment: the Consumers/Patients/Stakeholders that stand to realize true improvements in the delivery of health care through the integration of Health IT. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is currently conducting two surveys to find out more about patient perceptions and preferences for the use of health IT in the course of their healthcare. Currently, understanding about patient perceptions of practices that use electronic health records (EHRs) or about patient preferences about what functions they want from a personal health record (PHR) are not clearly established. Policymakers hope to understand how use of EHRs will affect consumer satisfaction with care, communication between patient and doctor, and coordination of medical care.
Participants in the business of Health IT will thrive when they keep in mind a goal of successful adoption instead of focusing only on financial rewards. Hospitals, providers, insurers, vendors, services, and consultants all must commit to the hard work of transitioning Health IT from the blueprint to a practical reality. This means a concentrated focus on continuous innovation and usability from all participants. While the Federal Government can provide the framework and structure, the actual implementation must come from the local and regional communities who know best how to serve their populations. There cannot be just a few big players that take the risks and receive the most of the rewards—without meaningful participation at all levels, Health IT implementation will not connect with the consumers and patients it is meant to serve. Collaboration and partnership must be present to capture the input and innovation at all levels along the food chain. Keeping the focus on adoptability and usability will ensure that in the long term, the business of Health IT will remain a vital and integral part of Health Care overall.