Thursday, July 15, 2010

Electronic Health Records

In 2009, the Obama administration and Congress passed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) to increase the use of Electronic Health Records (EHR’s). The law authorizes incentive payments through Medicare and Medicaid to clinicians and hospitals when they use EHR’s to achieve improvements in care delivery. On July 13, 2010 Secretary Sebelius announced the final rules to support meaningful use of EHR’s, officially launching a concentrated five-year national initiative to improve the health of Americans and reduce health care costs through their adoption and use.

Earlier this year Partnership for Prevention joined with its colleagues at Trust for America’s Health in submitting public comments on the HITECH rules, requesting that the clinical quality measures have a focus on preventive care, specifically those clinical preventive services that provide the highest value as recommended by the National Commission on Prevention Priorities (NCPP). These include influenza immunization rates, smoking cessation counseling, BMI screening and follow-up, cervical cancer and chlamydia screening, and aspirin therapy. We applauded the Department of Health and Human Services for including public health among its goals for implementation.

While the final rules do not include all the measures recommended, smoking status for patients 13 years old or older was included as a measured functionality. This is a victory for tobacco control advocates because recording smoking status may lead to an increase in the number of patients who receive smoking cessation treatment. The age threshold is important as counseling for adolescent smokers has been shown to be effective, approximately doubling long-term abstinence rates in the multiple studies. Additionally, this measure will be in accord with the 2008 Update to the Public Health Service Clinical Practice Guideline on Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence.

This is an exciting time in healthcare in America. Paper-based treatment, surveillance, and recordkeeping is yielding to same-time health communication. The 2009 law and the July 13 announcement of its rules will go a long way toward operationalizing these advances.

For more information:

David Zauche
Senior Program Officer
Partnership for Prevention


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