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I knew it: ‘The Hill’ blew it

As I write today in FierceEMR, consummate Washington insider publication The Hill made a rather glaring mistake in reporting earlier this week that the $1.2 billion in federal grant funding for health information exchange and regional health IT extension centers can’t be awarded until HHS finalizes its definition of “meaningful use.”

In fact, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology is going ahead with establishing the extension centers. The reporter confused the two health IT parts of the stimulus. Oops.

I grew up in the Washington area. I spent my first year after college in D.C. working for an “insider” publication, starting with a whopping $18,000 salary in the summer of 1992, but I had my very own U.S. Senate press pass. Real special, right? At the time, all it took was $6 and a letter from your boss vouching for your affiliation to get one. The “we work on Capitol Hill so we’re smarter than you” mentality of some colleagues got to me. I hightailed it to Chicago and never looked back.

Sometimes you need to step back from the supposed center of the action to understand what’s really going on. This is one of those times.

August 27, 2009 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Edward M. Kennedy, 1932-2009

As you’ve likely heard, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) died tonight of a malignant brain tumor at age 77.

I’m thinking that his death may be the impetus to get health reform passed this year. Whether that means liberals will try to ram something through without GOP support or Kennedy’s friends on the Republican side like Orrin Hatch will force a bipartisan resolution, I have no idea. But this will be Teddy’s legacy.

August 25, 2009 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

A first from ONC

Perhaps it’s part of the Obama administration’s new PR offensive on health reform, or perhaps he just wants to update the health IT community, but National Health IT Coordinator Dr. David Blumenthal has sent out an open letter to everyone on the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology‘s mailing list.

Here’s what he says:

In my role as National Coordinator for Health IT, I have the privilege to be part of a transformative change in health care that will help to extend the benefits of health information technology (HIT) to all Americans. With the passage earlier this year of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, we have the tools to begin a major transformation in American health care made possible through the creation of a secure, interoperable nationwide health information network.

Of course, this system is not an end in itself. Rather, it will enable countless other improvements in the quality and efficiency of health care that will make Americans healthier and their economy stronger.

My personal belief in this transformation is not based on theory or conjecture. As a primary care physician for over 30 years, I spent the first twenty shuffling papers in search of missing studies and frequently hoping, during middle-of-the-night emergencies, that I knew enough about patients’ medical histories to make good decisions. All that changed when I began to have access to patients’ electronic medical records. It made me a much better doctor. I would never go back, and neither would the vast majority of American physicians who have made the leap into the electronic age.

In fact, it would be hard for any health professional today to escape the conclusion that the antiquated, paper-dominated system we now have in place isn’t working well for patients, creates added costs and inefficiencies, and isn’t sustainable. As we look at our nation’s annual health care expenditures of approximately $2.5 trillion, there are many ways our current system fails both patients and providers. It is clear that change is necessary.

But how and why is nationwide electronic health information exchange so critical to achieving such change? Most importantly, because it provides the best opportunity for each patient to receive optimal care. The technology will make patients’ complete medical information securely and reliably available to health care providers where and when it is needed – when clinician and patient are together facing medical decisions that can make a lasting difference.

Better, faster, more reliable and efficient care also ultimately reduces system-wide costs by delivering results that help to avoid expensive or prolonged hospitalization from delayed or ineffective treatment, avert costly and sometimes fatal adverse events and unnecessary procedures, and can help to eliminate the onset of disease by better informed management of each patient’s health.

The goal of assuring an electronic health record for every American is daunting. We at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) do not pretend otherwise. We know this will be hard for some clinicians and hospitals, and we stand ready to help with resources provided by the Congress and the Administration.

We also recognize that we cannot achieve the benefits of a nationwide health information system unless we can assure all Americans that their personal health information will remain private and secure when this system exists. Putting into place safeguards for the privacy and security of this information, when it is in electronic form, will be an ongoing priority that influences and guides all of our efforts.

In the days, weeks, and months ahead, we will be rolling out a number of pivotal initiatives called for under the HITECH Act. I urge you to join and support us as we lay the foundation for every American to benefit from an electronic health record, as part of a modernized, interconnected, and vastly improved system of care delivery. We at ONC will be making every effort to keep you updated and fully engaged in all the steps of this national journey.

Sincerely,

David Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.P.
National Coordinator for Health Information Technology
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

August 19, 2009 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

An EHR primer

You want an easy way to explain electronic health records to someone not familiar with the concept? The Forbes.com Video Network–something I never new existed until an hour ago–has this relatively simple, 4-minute primer.

August 17, 2009 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

NAHIT to shut down

The National Alliance for Health Information Technology is shutting down Sept. 30, citing massive changes in health IT.

“In a few short years, NAHIT has accomplished its mission: HIT has moved front and center in efforts to reinvent and reinvigorate the U.S. health system,” NAHIT Chief Operating Officer Jane Horowitz says in a press release. “Going forward, the action is shifting from NAHIT’s focus on educating, advocating and building common ground to planning, implementing and using HIT to improving care, safety and efficiency.”

Horowitz says that other groups are in a better position to help with HIT implementation now. “In particular, the American Hospital Association (AHA) has close ties with hospital chief executive officers while the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) is the leading industry association for chief information officers,” Horowitz says. “They are devoting substantial resources for helping their members realize the potential of HIT and ensuring HIT is embedded in health care reform initiatives. We know that the AHA and CHIME will continue to advance the adoption of HIT.”

I suppose the demise of NAHIT was inevitable when founding CEO Scott Wallace left more than a year ago. NAHIT never did name a permanent replacement.

The group was successful in publishing a list of definitions of HIT terminology, something that certainly has informed health IT policy decisions since, including the current push to define meaningful use.

NAHIT also was a co-founder of the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology.

I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

You want some commentary? OK

Looking for actual commentary from me? I’ve already generated in the last two hours more responses than I usually get in a week from a commentary I posted today at FierceMobileHealthcare. Perhaps the reaction was because I mentioned political lightning rod Sarah Palin, but I’d like to think that I offer something thoughtful on healthcare reform, namely that quality is getting left out of the debate.

For the record, I made a related argument in last Thursday’s FierceEMR that political insiders and the ever-expanding pundit class are missing the point about EMRs. It’s not always about money.

August 11, 2009 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Conference listings updated

Take a look just below the blogroll in the right-hand column of this page and you’ll see that I’ve updated the conference listings with many of the events I’m interested in this fall. That doesn’t mean that I’ll be going to all of them, but I expect to attend at least a few of them.

Am I missing anything?

August 10, 2009 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Merge Healthcare opens its code

Merge Healthcare, a company that seems to be back on its feet after an accounting scandal, a trip through bankruptcy and a change of management, is opening up some of its proprietary code for outside development. The Milwaukee-based company announced today that it has released several SDKs for imaging technologies, including x-ray and tumor tracking.

Speaking of tracking, many of you probably are wondering where I’ve been. Yes, I was away on a semi-vacation for about eight days, though I was working while I was gone. I’ve been doing most of my commentary of late at FierceMobileHealthcare and FierceEMR. I hope not to neglect this blog as much in the future, but we’ll see.

August 5, 2009 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.