Friday, March 25, 2011

Sebelius and Blumenthal HIMSS 2011 Conference Keynotes

At the annual HIMSS conference, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and National Coordinator of Health IT Dr. David Blumenthal discussed the progress made in healthcare IT.

While much has been accomplished, Sebelius warned the crowd of over 30,000 attendees about the long road ahead. In terms of health IT adoption, “there’s already a gap between large urban hospitals and small rural ones,” she said. As she pointed out, 30% of primary care physicians (PCPs) use an EHR system today. That represents progress since only 20% of PCPs used an EHR system two years ago, but it still means that seven in 10 primary doctors do not have electronic health records.

"The energy and creativity and commitment to improving health are a positive sign," Sebelius said. "Eventually, we'll see hospital after hospital clear out their file cabinets. For future generations, jokes about doctors' handwriting will be a thing of the past."

Moving forward in health IT, Secretary Sebelius stressed the need for engagement in health reform, a push for technological development, adoption of EHRs by small practices, and provision of health IT across all populations regardless of racial background, geographic location, and socioeconomic status.

Dr. Blumenthal delivered a positive message on the progress of health IT stating, "Meaningful use is no longer a hope or a theory -- it is a working, operating program -- as reality." In his keynote address, Dr. Blumenthal also provided an update on the progress of the electronic health record (EHR) incentive programs, regional extension centers (RECs), health IT training programs, and EHR modules.

The main topics of Dr. Blumenthal's keynote include the incentive programs, the national infrastructure designed to support the adoption of EHRs, and patient health information (PHI).

"Meaningful use provides us a way to set expectations and goals, a blueprint for what info should be available, to whom and when, in support of an improved health care system and improved health," Blumenthal said.