In 2009 the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was signed into law. This law committed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to facilitate and accelerate the transformation of health information technology (health IT). And now 96% of non-federal acute care hospitals and 78% of office-based physicians utilize certified health IT and store patient records digitally. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) recently issued its 2018 annual update to Congress.
Despite this high level of adoption of electronic record keeping, ONC reports that significant barriers exist to effectively using this information:
- Strict privacy rules restrict sharing of health information and individuals often can’t easily access their own health records.
- Healthcare providers use different systems which don’t interface effectively and require multiple logins and formats.
- Medical records often omit outcome data which makes analysis difficult and limits the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve care delivery.
I recently experienced this dysfunction first hand with some radiology testing. Because of the inability of my provider to access a prior x-ray, my insurance carrier had no choice but to approve advance imaging (even though the provider believed it wouldn’t result in any findings). Turned out to be nothing after all, except my health plan was saddled with a few thousand dollars for needless testing – not to mention my sizable cost sharing.
ONC believes that these limitations will be mitigated by the 21st Century Cures Act which seeks to remove these barriers.
Moore’s law speaks to the speed of advances in technology. Market forces are mandating change, but technology will facilitate improvements to healthcare. Changes are coming – quicker than many expect.