Federal Legislation Hinders Small Health Care IT Providers: CompTIA

The HITECH Act has failed to provide guidance to small IT providers on how to help small medical practices adopt EHRs, according to a new white paper by IT association CompTIA.

Small IT providers have been unable to help health care providers, especially small medical practices, adopt EHRs (electronic health records) due to barriers such as the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act, according to a new white paper published by nonprofit IT trade association CompTIA.

The white paper, titled "Health IT: The Essential Role of Small IT Solution Providers," reported that small medical practices are less likely to adopt EHRs despite incentives in the HITECH Act.

In the 2009 legislation, the federal government allotted a total of $27 billion over 10 years to health care providers that meet meaningful use guidelines on adoption of EHRs. The language in the HITECH Act focuses on medical practices and not IT providers, CompTIA states. The association would like to see more collaboration between small IT providers and small health care practices.

"Federal policies should reflect the important role small IT service providers can play in the health IT transition and create avenues for them to fully participate," Elizabeth Hyman, CompTIA's vice president for public advocacy and co-author of the white paper, wrote in a statement. "Doing so will help to expand adoption, particularly by small medical providers, and increase the quality of care to patients."

Barriers keeping some small health care providers from adopting technology include a lack of resources for retraining IT professionals and inadequate collaboration between IT professionals and health care providers.

Small health care providers lack the IT resources to implement tools such as EHRs, Dr. Farzad Mostashari, the national coordinator for health information technology, told the House Small Business Subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology on June 2.

"Participation by small IT providers will also help drive job creation and retention, keeping America's small-business backbone as an economic engine for generations to come," Hyman said.

In a recent CompTIA study on insights and opportunities in health care, 45 percent of respondents cited a "very critical need" for health care IT training in HITECH compliance and regulatory mandates.

CompTIA recommends retraining IT professionals, providing technical assistance, and implementing privacy and security measures to allow smaller providers to adopt health care IT tools.

On July 25 CompTIA announced plans to award a certificate to IT professionals who complete health care IT training courses. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has spent $677 million to fund 62 RECs (Regional Extension Centers) to train health care practices in meaningful use of EHRs. The RECs must also provide this knowledge to small IT firms and connect them with small health care practices, according to CompTIA.

"The absence of a universal commitment by the RECs to integrate small IT firms into the transition will not only impact the ability of small medical providers to participate in the transition, but will also limit their ability to focus on patient care," the report states.

CompTIA published the white paper in conjunction with its conference CompTIA Tech Summit, held Aug. 4.

Provisions for data breaches in the HITECH Act also burden IT professionals, according to CompTIA. It recommends the legislation be revised to solve discrepancies in data-breach notification laws between federal and state laws that can cost small IT providers millions of dollars in legal costs.