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Is HITECH a buzz-kill?

November 18, 2009
by kate
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I’ve noticed a strange pattern lately. The majority of conversations I’ve had with CIOs, consultants and other industry experts in the past few months have veered toward the subject of HITECH — and not because I led it that direction.

It can be a discussion on anything from patient identification to wireless implementations, and somehow it keeps going to back to the ARRA-HITECH Act that is taking the healthcare IT industry by storm. CIOs are itching to talk about it — and not because they want to sing its praises, but because they are very, very concerned about what lies ahead.

The most common themes I’ve heard are as follows:

· Deadlines are too tight; everything seems rushed, and when it comes to IT implementations that change the way care is practiced, that’s never good

· Meaningful use still isn’t defined, and there’s no end in sight

· Small, community hospitals don’t have the resources required upfront to roll out CPOE (the organizations that don’t need funding will be lined up to collect dollars)

And then there’s this one:

· HITECH just doesn’t seem very well thought-out

Ouch. This is what CIOs and other experts are saying about the biggest thing to happen to the industry since the Internet. Frankly, that scares me, and it’s made me think that perhaps the Act that’s supposed to accelerate the adoption of electronic records just may end up hindering it.

And that maybe if government tries to force the hospital executives’ hand by rushing a process that shouldn’t be rushed, it could end up killing the buzz that EMRs have created over the last several years. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly agree with the overall goal of digitized medical records, and I understand that requirements are needed to make sure tax dollars are appropriately spent. Believe me, I get that. But what I don’t understand is, what’s the hurry? If ever there was a process that shouldn’t be rushed, it’s the deployment of systems that will drastically impact clinician workflow, patient care, and much more.

I’m just not so sure we’re going about this the right way, and apparently, a lot of CIOs don’t think so either.

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