In health care IT, these are the good old daysMarch 02, 2010, 2:31 PM EST
By John D. Halamka
How do you think about your past?
If you're like me, you remember the good, but forget the bad. My high-school memories are of a simpler time, with fewer responsibilities, buoyed by the boundless energy of youth. It's only with effort that I can recall the worry about college admissions, the ambiguity of the future and adolescent relationship angst.
In college, as I generally recall it, I courted my wife, saw endless possibilities for the future and reveled in the joy of unbounded learning. I've forgotten the anxiety of medical school applications, the struggle to build a self-supported household and the burden of entering the real world.
Each year, month and day that goes by brings its joys and sorrows, its victories and defeats, its anticipation and disappointments. However, I look back and only remember the trajectory, not the day-to-day position on the journey.
I've been thinking about the selective nature of memory because in 2010, everyone in health care IT is complaining. There are more policy and technology changes than ever before. The federal government has created new criteria to qualify for stimulus dollars, which in health care cover areas such as e-prescribing, public health reporting, provider order entry, data sharing with patients and health record exchanges among providers. There are grants for electronic health record implementation, health information exchange , advanced research, workforce development, and community demonstration projects. They all have simultaneous deadlines. And the feds have set the bar at a point that's rather high for many hospitals and clinician offices.
It's a very stressful time for health care IT professionals. But is that what you're going to remember about it in years to come?
Let's consider the past.
In 1981-82, Kathy, my future wife, and I lived with Frederick E. Terman, former provost of Stanford University and Silicon Valley pioneer, as well as the son of Lewis Terman, the inventor of the IQ test. In his final year of life, Terman told me of his wartime experiences -- innovative radar jammers, tunable receivers to detect radar signals, and anti-radar aluminum chaff, all created at an accelerated pace by his 850-person team at the Harvard Radio Research Laboratory. It was his version of the stimulus bill work we're doing today. Did he remember the stress, the wartime rationing, the emotional cost? No, he remembered only the incredible achievements created in unreasonable time frames necessitated by the world environment.
2010 will be a turning point in the health care IT industry. There will never again be a time when so much funding for health care IT is aligned with a momentum for change in government, industry and academia. On Feb. 12, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services funded nearly $1 billion in state and community grants to accelerate the adoption of technology for electronic health records and health care information exchange. The FCC will allocate $7.2 billion for broadband rollouts, including $2.5 billion directed at rural areas. Hospitals and clinicians will receive between $14 billion and 27 billion in incentives once they have demonstrated adoption and specific uses of technology. The federal government has published 1,000 pages of new regulations that specify the standards, security protections and strategy to ensure the money is spent wisely.
It's a lot to cope with at once, and the exhaustion it induces seems to be all we can think about right now. But in a decade or less, the sleepless nights, grant fatigue, policy arguments and standards debates will be all but forgotten.
We'll tell our grandchildren about 2010 and how we transformed health care from a cottage industry of information silos into an IT-connected ecosystem for coordination of care, public health and patient engagement.
Of course, our grandchildren will claim it's always been that way.
These are the good old days. Trust me.
John D. Halamka is CIO at CareGroup Healthcare System, CIO and associate dean for educational technology at Harvard Medical School, chairman of the New England Health Electronic Data Interchange Network, chairman of the national Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel and a practicing emergency physician. You can contact him at email@example.com .
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Original story - http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9164418/Opinion_In_health_care_IT_these_are_the_good_old_days
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