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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Blumenthal said so far 130 counties throughout the U.S. have applied for the grant money. The ONC will also focus on helping hospitals and other health facilities use the National Health Information Network (NHIN), which is a set of standards, services and policies that enable secure health information exchange over the Internet.

"What we want is a robust exchange [of health information], not a single solution," Blumenthal said, referring to a system that would be tailored to regional capabilities for information exchange around the country.

Speaking on the rate of EHR adoption in Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick said it the state was the appropriate place for a national HIT conference because his state has the most comprehensive health care insurance coverage.

Patrick told hundreds in a packed conference room that 45% of the state's physicians have adopted EHRs - five times the national average -- and 97.5% of its citizens have health insurance coverage due to the Commonwealth's health care reform law, enacted in 2006.

The law mandated that nearly every resident must obtain a minimum level of healthcare insurance coverage, which also included state run insurance programs for low or no-cost.

But Patrick also acknowledged that significant hurdles remain in rolling out the technology for EHRs and health information exchange networks that will be the conduit for physicians, patients and hospitals to share medical information.

"This is a major change to one of the most complicated systems in our society. There will be significant hurdles along the way particularly for the small provider organizations experiencing so many other pressures," Patrick said.

"But, in a world where more and more average citizens are banking, shopping and communicating in an increasingly electronic world, it's time for the health care system to catch up."

Patrick pointed to New Zealand as the ideal for EHRs. "In New Zealand, when you are born, you get an electronic medical record. And that record is available in any hospital, clinic, doctor's office, or pharmacy anywhere in New Zealand for the rest of your life," he said.

"That's where I want to be. I want that kind of seamlessness, that kind of simplicity, that kind of efficiency."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at  @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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