HHS happy with health IT achievements
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently announced that more than half of America's doctors have adopted electronic health records - exceeding the HHS goal for 2013. "We have reached a tipping point," she said.
And that tipping point came with a hefty price tag. As of the end of April, the federal government paid out $14.6 billion in EHR incentives, according to Robert Anthony, deputy director of the HIT Initiative Group at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' Office of E-Health Standards and Services.
The price tag is not necessarily a concern for the federal government. Last September, the federal government has paid out $7 billion total, and Farzad Mostashari, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology said there is no cap on incentives as mandated under the HITECH ACT. The federal government estimated at the onset of the program that it would spend around $20 billion on the EHR incentive program by 2015.
Seven months later, with two more years to go in the program, the tally paid out reached $14.6 billion. With another half of the nation's physicians and 20 percent of hospitals yet to sign up, it wouldn't be out of line to assume the total could double, perhaps approaching 29.2 billion.
As part of his first term election campaign, President Barack Obama said he wanted to establish electronic health records for every American by 2014, a goal also shared with his predecessor, President George W. Bush.
It is possible that every American won't have an EHR by 2014, even without the difficulty anticipated for achieving Stages 2 and 3.
The timing and expense for establishing nationwide EHRs will likely to fail to stay within federally estimated limits. If Americans are watching--as I'm sure they are--are they feeling satisfied, or ripped off?
For a fact, the GOP is disappointed, as has been made evident by six Republican Senators recently calling for a "reboot" of the EHR incentive program.
Mark Savage, director of health information technology policy and programs at the National Partnership for Women and Families is among those who argue a reboot is not the way to go. "It's actually pretty remarkable that the pieces are fitting together as well as they are and that we're making the kind of progress that we are," he told Government Health IT Editor Tom Sullivan.
"We think that [the program] should continue, but we have a lot of consumer organizations and patient organizations that we work with who, when they look closely at this, are telling us ways it can be improved to meet their needs - things like making sure that care plans are more integrated into this effort, [and] recognizing that it's not just a patient-provider relationship."