The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and its Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) announced new data on Friday, February 17, showing that the use of electronic health records has more than doubled between 2009 and 2011. The Department also highlighted new training programs to meet increased demand in health IT jobs. At the same time, new consumer survey data show broad support for health IT, as industry and government leaders gather for an Annual HealthIT conference in Las Vegas on February 20-24, 2012.
Expanding Use of Health IT and Electronic Health Records
The new data that HHS and its ONC announced on Friday come from a new survey conducted by the American Hospital Association. The survey found that the percentage of U.S. hospitals that have adopted electronic health records (EHRs) has more than doubled from 16 to 35 percent between 2009 and 2011.
In addition, the new data showed, 85 percent of hospitals now report that by 2015 they intend to take advantage of the incentive payments made available through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.
The announcement by HHS on Friday also presented new data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), detailing $3.12 billion in incentive payments the agency has made to physicians, hospitals and other healthcare providers who have started to use electronic health records (EHRs) to improve the quality of patient care. In January alone, CMS provided $519 million to eligible providers.
During a speech at Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley Health Science Institute in Kansas City, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius presented the new findings, including data showing that nearly 2,000 hospitals and over 41,000 doctors have received $3.1 billion in incentive payments for use of health IT, particularly electronic health records. Secretary Sebelius also highlighted the increasing number of health IT jobs being created by these initiatives.
“Health IT is the foundation for a truly 21st century health system where we pay for the right care, not just more care,” Secretary Sebelius said. “Healthcare professionals and hospitals are taking advantage of this unprecedented opportunity to begin using smarter, new technology that improves care and creates the jobs we need for an economy built to last.”
Growing Demand for Workers with Health IT Training
“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of health IT jobs across the country is expected to increase by 20 percent from 2008 to 2018 – a pace much faster than the average for all occupations through 2018,” HHS reported.
Part of the reason for Secretary Sebelius’ appearance at the Penn Valley Community College Health Science Institute on Friday was to highlight the Obama Administration’s programs to train workers through community colleges and universities to meet the growing demand in health IT jobs.
To meet this demand for workers with training and experience in health IT, the Obama Administration has launched four workforce training programs that provide training through 82 community colleges and nine universities nationwide.
According to HealthcareIT News, as of January 2012, more than 9,000 community college students have been trained for health IT careers and another 8,706 students have enrolled. And, as of February, participating universities have enrolled more than 1,200 students and graduated nearly 600 post-graduate and masters-level health IT professionals. An additional 1,700 are expected to graduate by the summer of 2013.
Survey Shows Strong Consumer Support for Health IT, but Privacy Concerns
New data released on Thursday, February 16, from a survey commissioned by the National Partnership for Women & Families and conducted by Harris Interactive under the direction of Alan Westin, professor emeritus at Columbia University, showed that health care consumers overwhelmingly support use of electronic health records (EHRs) and have high confidence in health IT’s potential to improve care, but maintain concerns about privacy and potential for data breaches.
Among the health care consumer survey findings reported on Thursday, were the following:
- “When asked if an EHR is or would be useful for seven key elements of care – such as making sure doctors have timely access to relevant information, and helping patients communicate directly with providers – 88 to 97 percent of those whose doctors use EHRs, and 80 to 97 percent of those whose doctors use paper medical records, said EHRs would be useful.”
- Three fourths of EHR respondents whose doctors use paper records said it would be valuable if their doctors adopted EHRs.
- Only six percent of respondents whose doctors use EHRs are unsatisfied with the medical record system their doctors are using.
- The 26 percent of respondents who have online access to their medical records were even more supportive of health IT than those who do not, particularly when it comes to the ways in which EHRs benefit them personally. They were also more trusting of doctors to protect their privacy.
- There are concerns about data breaches and current privacy laws. Fifty-nine percent of respondents whose doctors use EHRs agree that widespread adoption of EHRs will lead to even more personal information being lost or stolen, and 66 percent of respondents whose doctors now use paper records expressed these concerns.
- Fifty-one percent of those whose doctors use EHRs and 53 percent of those whose doctors use paper records agree that the privacy of personal medical records and personal health information is not currently well protected by federal and state laws and organizational practices.
- Those with paper records today who are most worried about their privacy in this survey were men, those with a college education, respondents ages 35 to 46, and those living in the East and West.
This will include presentations by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Military Health System (MHS), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Social Security Administration (SSA), among others.