Health IT Gets a Hand from the Government

Two national agencies have lent resources to health care providers to help them adopt their own IT.

In moves that might disappoint consultants, two prominent national agencies released resources this week to help health care providers adopt information technology.

Many of the resources center on humans and workflow, rather than hardware and software. The announcements were timed to capture the attention of attendees at the annual meeting of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society in San Diego.

Despite tireless cheerleading and some seed money from the federal government, few providers have adopted health information technology.

One barrier is that providers dont want to invest in technology that they perceive as beneficial to insurance companies. Another barrier is concern that health IT, particularly the initial implementation phase, will decrease the number of patients that doctors can visit each day and cause a drop in revenue. Yet another is unfamiliarity and uncertainty.

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The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, launched a suite of on-line "learning resources" for adopting health IT.

As part of the offering, healthcare providers who have already adopted the technology will describe their experiences, including unpleasant surprises, easy mistakes and, ultimately, rosy outcomes.

The agency, better known for completing studies and issuing reports, is moving quickly. Rather than wait for finished findings, AHRQ is creating the public resources now to capture lessons learned as they emerge.

Topics include laws and standards, operations, organizational strategy, organizations, technology and value of health IT. The government has also created an overall health IT Web site.

"The goal is simple: Help health care providers at the ground level learn from each others real-world experience and give them easy access to the best information available," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy.

"Adoption of health IT will be too slow if providers have to reinvent the wheel one by one. This shared learning tool brings the lessons of experience together in one place."

Another offering from the National Alliance for Health Information Technology deals primarily with managing organizational change when hospitals adopt technologies that require physicians to request tests and medications on an electronic system, called CPOE (computerized physician order entry).

Fewer than 5 percent of hospitals have such systems installed.

The Alliances guide costs $295 or $395 and walks senior executives through the decisions that must be made to implement CPOE. It describes how to create internal teams, manage cultural change, redesign workflows, provide training and technical support as well as, of course, implementing the technology.

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