Critical Mass in the Advance of Health Information Technology

Jim Tate, Meaningful Use Expert

Health Information Technology Tipping Point

I was in Washington, DC last week for the 2011 ONC Annual Meeting. This was a three day program that brought together the awardees of all the programs that the HITECH Act created. The Regional Extension Centers attended along with the Beacon Communities, the State HIEs, the Workforce Development groups, and the Advance Research Projects Program. All the stakeholders were there in one big pot of chili. A few vendors were thrown in for spice. Even David Blumenthal came out to take us on a trip down memory lane.

Hercules himself would be proud of what has been accomplished so far to advance health information technology. Over 115,000 eligible professionals have signed on with the Regional Extension Centers. That is about one third of all the primary care providers in the US. Close to one billion dollars have been paid out in incentives to date. Over 650 complete EHRs have received Stage 1 Certification. We are at the tipping point.

Malcolm Gladwell defines tipping point as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.” We are there. It is too late to turn back now. There is simply too much momentum. Certainly there are bridges to cross.

2012 will see the transition from the Temporary to the Permanent Certification Program. The vendor community must still step up and reach consensus on specific areas that are holding back the incentives. It is no longer acceptable for a major vendor (who shall not be named)  to charge $1800 to a practice to perform a test of the “capability to submit electronic data to immunization registries”. Implementation backlogs over 6 months are unacceptable. Meaningful Use reporting must be generated from within an EHR by the end user and not dependent on waiting for the vendor to run a monthly report.  So there are a few wrinkles still to work out but the foundation is in place.

2011 has been a good year for HIT adoption and the trajectory for Stage 2 and 3 looks good. There are fewer and fewer naysayers and to those who forecast that there would never been any incentives paid out I have only one thing to say. For eligible professionals the deadline to become a meaningful user of certified EHR technology and receive maximum incentives is October 3, 2012.

Jim Tate is a nationally recognized expert on the CMS EHR Incentive Program, certified technology and meaningful use and author of The Incentive Roadmap® The Meaningful Use of Certified Technology: Stage 1.