Various analysts have begun to detail how the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka the stimulus bill) signed this afternoon will affect healthcare IT. While some analysts are skeptical regarding the immediate effects of the bill since only a small percent of the $19 billion allocated to HCIT will be disbursed in the next year, the $17 billion in EMR reimbursements will no doubt have a large positive effect on EMR adoption in the long-term (via NextThingsFirst). Additionally, many of the bill’s provisions surrounding privacy protections will be felt much sooner.
Certainly, the hope inside the Obama administration is that greater EMR penetration will reduce costly administrative burdens and clinical errors (and therefore costs) while giving patients more ownership and security over their personal health information. Indeed, Dr. Ron Paulus, CIO of Geisinger, stated in a recent Wharton eHealth class how his hospital has used EMR systems to provide better care at cost-efficient levels while protecting patient privacy. Still, while the stimulus bill addresses the main reason for EMRs’ slow adoption to date – their cost – some are concerned about lengthy implementation times, especially for small practices. Certainly, having heard from Dr. Peter Gabriel of Penn today regarding the time it takes to fully implement an EMR and get staff trained properly on the systems, we believe that small practices will need considerable help from federal, state and local authorities to realize the promise of EMRs and make successful use of them at their practices. We believe that the Obama administration should be mindful of assisting doctors with installing EMRs, training doctors on using the systems and incentivizing regular usage of EMRs by doctors, in addition to refunding EMR purchases, in order to spread the benefits of EMRs throughout the U.S. healthcare system.