Health IT funding to create 50,000 jobs

Sixty regional IT help centers will help health care facilities implement electronic medical records

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Sen. Grassley said the letter was prompted by concerns that had been brought to his attention in recent months with regard to EHR systems that included "administrative complications, formatting and usability issues, errors and interoperability."

In another example, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently reported its EHR network portal for Department of Defense employees contained errors in patient information.

Paula Griswold, executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors, said too much of our current health care system still consists of bad processes, and adding technology will not solve those problems.

"Our real challenge is to redesign health care so that it's patient-centric, safe, effective, high quality for all individuals and affordable," Griswold said. "That redesigned healthcare system will use health information technology to achieve those goals.

She cautioned that IT is not a silver bullet, and that products need to be not only well designed but tested and carefully implemented with patient input.

Griswold was among a panel of industry experts who raised several key issues hindering the adoption of EHR systems and personal health record (PHR) technologies, where patients would be in charge of their own online medical information, including who gets to see it.

The main hurdles to adoption included the ability to aggregate medical data and organize it, how to share it without mature, robust information exchange networks, and the security of data once it is online.

John Moore, a managing partner with Chilmark Research, said that while 80% of people use the Internet to search for health information, a recent study showed that only 7% actually use PHRs.

PHR technology can be offered by health care providers such as Boston Children's Hospital's Indivo or private services, such as Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault.

"It's still way too hard to get health data. Most aren't going to go and get their paper records ... and enter that data themselves into a PHR; secondly there's trust and also privacy and security [issues]," Moore said.

Over the next two years, 58% of small physician practices plan to roll our EMRs, according to a recent survey. EMRs will share patient information between health care providers, ensuring a patient's treatment medical history, existing conditions and prescription medication warnings are made automatically available to a treating physician.

Over the next year, Blumenthal said his office will focus on finalizing "meaningful use" regulations, which should be published later this spring, and implementing the Beacon Community Grant program, which will use $220 million to build out health IT infrastructures and regional information exchange capabilities in 15 communities.

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