Questioning federal EMR support programs

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology continues to announce various grant opportunities to support the forthcoming Medicare/Medicaid EMR incentive program, using hundreds of millions of dollars in funding authorized by the federal stimulus law. But will these programs be diverse and responsive enough to help so many different healthcare providers truly achieve "meaningful use" of IT in order to improve the nation's healthcare system? HealthLeaders Media IT editor Carrie Vaughan has her doubts.

For example, Vaughan questions the plan to spend $80 million on workforce training. "[W]ill these newly trained health IT professionals really have the depth of knowledge to help support the implementation and adoption of EHRs and health information exchanges? How reliant will some providers be on these IT workers? Are we creating a system that will depend on these workers in the long term?" she wonders. "That could be a problem considering that many smaller hospitals or individual practitioners don't have the resources to pay for this support in the long run."

Vaughan also raises issues about a centerpiece of the Obama administration's EMR efforts, the $598 million HIT extension center program. "The concerns with this program are whether these are enough centers to adequately help all the providers who need it, whether the funding sufficient, and whether the centers will have the expertise in each of the vendor products to effectively help providers," she writes. Like the forthcoming rules on meaningful use, the devil will be in the details.

For more:
- read Vaughan's HealthLeaders Media opinion piece