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ARRA and Health Care

Yesterday I attended a meeting sponsored by Louisiana Health Care Review and heard a lot about how the federal government would influence the healthcare environment of the future. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) has earmarked 19B dollars to invest in health care Information Technology.

The aim of the Obama administration is to promote the electronic interchange of health care data between providers. In order to promote this information exchange, hospitals and physicians will be awarded a portion of the 19 billion dollars based upon meaningful use of certified IT systems. This kind of investment has the potential to greatly reduce errors and improve outcomes in health care – particularly in chronic diseases. And this is a reality – not a proposed bill or an idea being bantered about in Washington. The money is there and its purpose is determined.

The problem is that many of the definitions are not determined as yet. ‘Meaningful use’, for instance, sounds good but it is too vague to use in designing polices. Also, the certification standards have not been determined as yet so while it is assumed that most health care IT vendors will meet certification standards, nothing is guaranteed. And what will it mean for vendors to be ‘certified’? Will they then be subject to all the Stark laws and Medicare provisions that health care providers are? Will the physician who owns a software company be prohibited from using his own product?

The good news is that at this point in time, none of this will affect post acute care providers except in a tangential way. Changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule are expected and universal code changes may affect our computer vendors.

In listening to the information yesterday, it was the universal opinion of all the speakers that the healthcare system would be an entirely different animal within the next ten years. While we all recognize that major changes are needed, it is understandable that the unanswered questions are anxiety provoking in many providers. One thing is for certain, providers, whether they are covered under ARRA or not, will be sliding towards obsolete in the coming years if they do not embrace technology as a tool to further patient care.

For questions about this information, keep checking back. As more detailed information becomes available, we will be posting for your information and digestion.


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