AHA's health IT priority for 2010 a good thing

By Patty Enrado
08:50 AM

As the American Hospital Association (AHA) gears up for its annual conference next week in Washington, the association has released a series of papers outlining its 2010 priorities. Health IT was identified as a top priority.

AHA represents nearly 5,000 hospitals, healthcare systems, networks, other care providers and 37,000 individual members. When an organization has that much clout and reach across the country, AHA’s advocacy for health IT is a good thing for the federal efforts to increase health IT adoption.

AHA’s caveat, however, is that it calls for the proper foundation of standards to enable sharing of electronic patient record among providers and their patients. While AHA supports the federal efforts, the association is calling for three key definitions.

The association wants a definition of meaningful use that includes broad objectives and advances widespread health IT adoption. What it really means is that the current objectives of the interim meaningful use criteria are too narrow or too specific.

Everyone is for advancing widespread health IT adoption, but the means to the ends may differ. AHA wants to widen the definition of hospital-based eligible professional to include more physicians to qualify for EHR incentives. I agree that the definition needs to be changed to bring more physicians into the program. While this is slightly of a different flavor, Congressmen Kennedy and Murphy introduced the Health IT Extension for Behavioral Health Services Act of 2010 late last week. As I posted in yesterday’s blog, if the bill passes, more healthcare providers would be included as well. Remember that the goal is to drive health IT adoption among providers.

AHA is also requesting that the meaningful use criteria revisit the definition of hospital so that each hospital within a healthcare system can stand on its own individually within the EHR program. The change would enable those hospitals to reap the entire stimulus funds due them, instead of having to share that one sum with the rest of the hospitals in the healthcare system. That’s a huge difference financially speaking.

Lastly, AHA wants critical access hospitals included in the Medicaid EHR incentive program. If anyone can shed light as to why critical access hospitals were excluded, please chime in. It seems if we are operating again on the goal of widespread health IT adoption, those facilities should be included.

It will be interesting to see how the membership responds to the key points and the priority papers. If anyone out there is a member and attends, let us know how they are received.

Patty Enrado blogs daily at EHRWatch.com.