I recently attended a conference sponsored by the Delaware Valley Chapter of 7x24 Exchange and the Pennsylvania eHealth Initiative along with many vendors within these organizations. It was entitled “Crossing the Infrastructure & HITECH Meaningful Divide.” Unless you’re in the healthcare industry or you serve it in some way, many of you probably don’t realize that there is a substantial amount of money ($19B) that is obtainable from the federal government under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) that is set aside as incentives for healthcare organizations to develop the capability for Electronic Health Records (EHR).
Most of us have experienced the fact that our doctor’s offices are still on paper and fax systems even after HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) was supposed to start the process of going paperless. The new funding has actually started to help accelerate the process evidenced by the fact that all of my doctors now use e-prescriptions – the first step in EHRs.
What became apparent to me as I sat through this conference is that many disparate organizations must come together in order to get to a true EHR that can be used by all of your doctors nationwide. Right now, your medical information is not “structured data,” which is essential for all of these different computer systems to talk to each other. And, there must be some kind of centralized storage or “Health Information Exchange,” which in and of itself is a large data center (with backups and disaster recovery sites). In PA, this is going to be the PHIX (Pennsylvania Healthcare Information Exchange) and on the federal level it would be NHIN (Nationwide Healthcare Information Network), although this name is expected to change soon.
So how is this all going to happen by 2015, which is the target for completion? Here is the outline of the goals (obtained from US Dept. of Health and Human Services):
- Electronically capture health record data in coded format
- Report health information
- Use that information to track clinical conditions
- Guide and support care processes and care coordination
- Achieve and improve performance and support care processes and key health system outcomes
How this translates to computer and data center implementations is what most healthcare organizations are currently struggling with. For example, one healthcare company I’m working with built a new data center just a few years ago that is quickly reaching its maximum capacity while they have just started implementing their EHR initiatives. They are struggling with these questions:
1. Should we expand our current data center, build a new one or use the “cloud” to address their growing needs?
2. Is the “cloud” secure and private enough for this highly sensitive data?
3. How does my data center differ from those in other industries?
4. How do I show ROI for the technologies I need to implement to support EHR initiatives and “meaningful use”?
Stayed tuned for more on these issues.