Electronic health records timeline in stimulus bill could be unrealistic, senior health IT official says

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Lawmakers might have underestimated how long it would take the healthcare industry to implement new healthcare information technology when setting a timeline for its adoption under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, one prominent healthcare official says.

Under the ARRA, legislators set out a timeline for the adoption of electronic health records. The bill calls for the policies, standards and systems that allow the use of EHRs to be operational in 2011. That's about the same time that Medicare and Medicaid payment incentives for EHR use take effect. Speaking at the first meeting of the HIT Standards Committee on Friday, David Blumenthal, national coordinator for public health information technology, said the medical community is facing multiple IT-related changes over the next few years, and that lawmakers should consider revising the timetable to allow the healthcare industry more time to adopt EHR technology.

Healthcare officials also speaking at the HIT Standards Committee expressed concerns that the Medicare and Medicaid incentives would not be enough to merit the extra effort physicians and facilities would need to make over the next two years in order to benefit from them. A recent report from the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging found that nursing homes lead the healthcare field in adoption of EHRs, with nearly all nursing homes surveyed using electronic information systems for MDS data collection and billing, and 43% maintaining electronic health record systems. (McKnight's, 11/10/08)