Former ONC Leaders Cite Challenges in Maximizing EHR Benefits

Joseph Goedert | Health Data Management | September 12, 2017

Four former national coordinators for health information technology have penned a perspective on achievements made in using electronic health records under the HITECH Act and where providers and the HIT industry still must go to continue past progress. The law spurred rapid progress toward digitizing the industry, which now is at an inflection point, say the authors, who include Vindell Washington, MD, Karen DeSalvo, MD, Farzad Mostashari, MD, and David Blumenthal, MD. EHRs have primed the industry to now achieve several positive results, including improving clinical guidelines, and sharing patient data seamlessly and securely.

HITECH, they contend, has paved the way for population health management and a national infrastructure for data exchange, as about 80 percent of office-based practices now use a certified EHR with a majority of them sharing data, and nearly 90 percent of patients having access to their electronic health information. Further, hundreds of studies show that HITECH had a positive effect on care quality, safety and efficiency.

But there have been many challenges along with the achievements, the national coordinators acknowledge, including congressional expectations of rapid funding and program development. “A short timeline meant that some organizations simply expanded existing proprietary EHRs; the design was hampered as clinical documentation requirements were in competition with billing and compliance needs.”...