It's amazing-the progress being made to splice information technology into the health care industry's genome. When I first dove into health IT a decade ago the use of electronic health records (EHRs) was dismal and healthcare stakeholders rarely sat at the same table with mutually beneficial, collaborative objectives in mind. Even within the same healthcare organization it was not uncommon for individual department leaders to disrupt an integrated health IT effort in order to protect some of their department's self-interests. Less than 5% of hospitals had implemented fully functional computerized provider order management (CPOM) systems; less than 1 in 5 physicians were using an ambulatory EHR; and less than 5% of those were fully functional EHRs. Today the percentage of physicians and hospitals using robust EHRs is rising at a rate that was unthinkable back then.
This progress parallels the launch of health IT initiatives established through the federal HITECH funds such as the EHR Incentive Program. In the past two years these funds have been a catalyst here in Texas to engage diverse groups of healthcare stakeholders to use health IT to improve quality of care. As a result:
- Increasing numbers of Texas physicians are using EHRs (approaching 50%)
- More and more hospitals are using CPOM
- Over a dozen of community-wide health information exchanges (HIEs) are up and running
- New health IT workforce training programs are established
- Four regional extension centers were formed covering all geographic areas of the state and are doing a phenomenal job assisting thousands of physicians with EHR selection, implementation and meaningful use
- Texas became the first state to have it’s HIE plan approved by ONC
- Texas was one of the first states to stand up the Medicaid EHR incentive program making our program a model for other states
- Texas was one of four to receive a SHARP grant
- And Texas leads the way with the number of physicians attesting to meaningful use; Texas physicians and hospitals have received over $270 Million in EHR incentives
This rate of progress is only possible when individuals with diverse backgrounds and from different healthcare stakeholder groups are able to collaborate. In Texas these stakeholders have demonstrated an ability to park their self-interests in order to drive forward with a common vision to improve the quality and delivery of patient care in our communities.