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Health Information Technology

Information technology (IT) aims to empower its users through rapid deployment of systematic data. IT has influenced several industries around the world by introducing novel work ethics, which has affected trillions of lives around the globe. With US healthcare in dire need of an overhaul as a consequence of increasing costs and care discrepancies, health IT has been proclaimed as the savior. The federal healthcare reforms under the American Recovery and Re-investment Act (ARRA) is an attempt to ensure that care is more affordable and accessible. With the introduction of electronic medical records and Health Information Exchanges (HIEs), the healthcare community is targeting practice efficiency through coordinated care.

The problem is that while the impact of health IT is on the rise, many believe the shift to be too radical and transition is comparatively slow for smaller practices. In a bid to enhance the use of healthcare technology, CMS has incentivized the shift to electronic medical records (EMRs) in hopes of quelling cost related issues. The EMR industry has responded to the dilemma by introducing cloud or web-based solutions, thereby reducing the upfront costs of hardware by establishing a license based subscription model. This Software as a Service (SaaS) model allows physicians to only pay for their usage, since the data backup; security and application upgrades are managed by EMR vendors remotely.

With the CMS meaningful use (MU) requirements serving as a basic platform for usability, the EMR market has witnessed a colossal growth over the last couple of years. With the total number of vendors now being reported at 800, the EMR market is consumer driven. The surge in the health IT industry has sparked an innovative spree. We are witnessing vendors trying to incorporate innovative technologies and move towards commercialization. More smart phone applications, increased OS compatibility, tablets, etc., says a health IT expert.

However, the MU criteria is also accused of stifling innovation in the health IT industry. While it is true that the potential of EMR technology is still untested, CMS has a good idea where healthcare is headed. With participation still voluntary, MU is not restricting growth; it is merely establishing a standard for usability. MU has helped by providing physicians an idea of what is expected from them. Similarly, it has provided a usability structure for EMR vendors by highlighting the minimum capabilities of an EMR. says Tony Keller, an independent health IT consultant.

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