Tag: "electronic medical records"
Take The Money And Run? Some Hospitals, Physicians Dropping Out of Government Electronic Health Records Program
The 2009 HITECH Act authorized billions of taxpayers’ dollars be spent to pay hospitals and physicians “incentives” to adopt EHRs. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the total tab will be $30 billion from 2011 through 2019. The Government Accountability Office has just reported on the results so far.
Not surprisingly, with so much money being spent, there was a lot of uptake: 45 percent of eligible hospitals had EHRs in 2011, versus 64 percent in 2012. For physicians and allied professionals, the share went up from 21 percent to 48 percent. However, the high net adoption rate disguises significant drop outs:
Specifically, within the 36 states that had completed their determinations of which providers would receive incentive payments for the 2012 Medicaid EHR program year, 61 percent of professionals and 36 percent of hospitals that participated in the Medicaid EHR program in 2011 did not continue in 2012. Sixteen percent of professionals and 10 percent of hospitals participating in the Medicare EHR program in 2011 did not continue to participate in 2012. (p. 23)
Bloomberg is reporting that states hungry for revenue and flush with the power to requisition individual medical records are moving to capitalize on the value of that information by selling the information in them to all comers. Unlike private companies, states and their agents are exempt from HIPAA requirements and therefore do not have to take data privacy especially seriously.
In an experiment, researchers were able to match several dozen people with their supposedly de-identified medical records by combining public record searchers and the information in a sample group of records purchased for $50 from Washington State. Among other things, “an executive treated for assault was found to have a painkiller addiction,” and a “retiree who crashed his motorcycle was described as arthritic and morbidly obese.”
Bloomberg reports notes that states that exclude zip codes, and admission and discharge dates are less vulnerable to records identification. But even “de-identified” data sets contain significant personal information that could be used to identify individuals, especially in rural areas with small populations.
This is from my column today in The Wall Street Journal.
The Obama administration wants something the federal government has never done before: a computer system that connects HHS, the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration, Homeland Security and perhaps other departments as well. This is a herculean task with unclear benefits. For perspective, consider that the Veterans Administration converted to electronic medical records in 1998 and the VA and the Department of Defense have been unsuccessfully trying to share records ever since. Even though they have spent millions of dollars on the effort, it now appears that the two agencies are abandoning the goal altogether.