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Healthcare Information Technology Standards

HITSPADr. John Halamka leads the powerful HITSPA (Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel), which is working on specs for electronic health records and interoperability, which is much easier said than done. In an interview that I did with Halamka not long ago, the healthcare leader (he’s CIO of CareGroup Healthcare System) emphasized the importance of having a business case for technology.

That’s why, he said, as an example, the Massachusetts RHIO (Regional Health Information Organization) is one of the few sustainable RHIOS that isn’t bleeding red ink. It has even spun off a for-profit consulting subsidiary to help pay the bills. So that’s what’s in the back of Halamka’s mind as HITSPA slowly begins to hammer out details of the ubiquitous “meaningful use” and the architecture and capabilities of health information technology.

As a small group physician, you should care about this because, meaningful use of EHRs is tied to future Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments. And to keep you up to date, last week the definition of meaningful use further took shape. By 2011, these seven electronic exchanges will be mandatory as part of meaningful use of EHRs: e-prescribing, lab results, clinical data summaries (problems, medications, allergies, laboratory reports) from provider to provider, biosurveillance, immunization registries, public health and quality measurement.

And although yes, there are massive investments involved in these technologies, keep what Halamka says in mind. The technology should have a business case, and help pay for itself, either now or down the road, so think about capturing the reasoning for initiating your IT project before you begin.
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