Rob Cunningham, Consultant
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act authorizes an estimated $38 billion in incentives and supports for health information technology (IT) from 2009 to 2019. After years of sluggish health IT adoption, this crisis-driven investment of public funds creates a unique opportunity for rapid diffusion of a technology that is widely expected to improve care, save money, and facilitate transformation of the troubled U.S. health system. Achieving maximal effect from the stimulus funds is nevertheless a difficult challenge. The Recovery Act strengthens the federal government’s leadership role in promoting health IT. But successful adoption and utilization across the health system will also require development of a supportive infrastructure and broad-based efforts by providers, vendors, state-based agencies, and other health system stakeholders. Optimal use of IT for health care may require extensive reengineering of medical practice and of existing systems of payment. The future course of health IT adoption will also be subject to the effects of any health care reform legislation and of technological innovation in the fast-changing world of electronic communications.
On December 30, 2009, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT issued an interim final rule on standards and certification for health IT, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a notice of proposed rulemaking on meaningful use of health IT (see the proposed rule, fact sheets, and FAQs). A 60-day comment period is in effect for each.