From the vantage point of 2017, we can say that at least one objective of the 2009 HITECH legislation – widespread EHR deployment – has been achieved. According to ONC, nearly 96 percent of hospitals have moved to using a certified electronic health record. This is a nine-fold increase in EHR usage since the HITECH Act became law.
However, while healthcare has generally “gone digital,” many in the industry are left wondering, “So what?” Has the technology improved care efficiency, streamlined delivery or improved patient outcomes?
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Numerous studies say “no.” For instance, according to Deloitte’s 2016 Survey of U.S. Physicians, three out of four physicians believe EHRs increase practice costs, outweighing any efficiency savings, and seven out of 10 think EHRs reduce their productivity.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. A recent report presented to ONC confirmed that healthcare technology has started to improve care quality and safety across a wide range of settings and applications, though not to the extent that the industry had hoped for.
Why aren’t we doing better at fulfilling the promise of healthcare digitization and realizing a return on the U.S. healthcare industry’s (by some estimates) $3 trillion IT investment? There are several parts to that answer. One relates to the government’s involvement. For the past eight years, everyone has focused on meeting government-imposed requirements. For many, of necessity, this was about meeting the letter of the law, not the spirit. This essentially killed innovation as R&D budgets and deployments focused on meeting the specific requirements of Meaningful Use rather than innovating to improve the cost/quality of healthcare.
Healthcare digitization holds immense promise. It represents table stakes – with this technology in place, with the right encouragement and the government stepping back from its role of trying to legislate innovation, we can use these technological underpinnings to improve care quality and efficiency across the entire healthcare continuum. Then, and only then, will we start to see the full value of healthcare’s digital transformation.
> This blog post is excerpted from PatientKeeper’s eBook, “Healthcare IT 2017-2022: First Comes Change, Then Comes Value“