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Kathy Mahdoubi, Senior Correspondent | September 28, 2009
National HIT week
brought key issues forward
September 21-25, marked the 4th annual National Health IT Week. The nearly $20 billion set aside for health information technology stimulus in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) won't be rolling out until 2011, but the Obama administration has dubbed 2009 the "Year of Healthcare Transformation." High-tech companies, hospitals and ambulatory health care centers are struggling to make the grade for future funding in order to meet the nation's health IT goals by 2014.

This year, Health IT Week was a forum for governmental, non-profit, academic and industry leaders to reach a formal partnership with the intention of improving implementation and interoperability of health IT throughout the country. The biggest push in health IT is the electronic medical record, or EMR. The technology promises a lot for health care reform -- better, more comprehensive patient care, fewer medical errors and duplicate testing, more transparency and detailed outcomes reporting, and improved accuracy in coding and reimbursement.

Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Co-chair of the 21st Century Health Care Caucus, moderated the official news conference held Tues, Sept. 22, in Washington, D.C. He had a few things to say about the agenda behind Health IT Week.

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"We need to guarantee people access to affordable health care, but we can't do that without getting a handle on costs," Kennedy said. "The choice is further rationing of care or transforming the system to get better outcomes for the money we spend. We need more research to get an evidence base about what care is most effective so we can better value the care we give. Medicare is beginning to invest in comparative effectiveness research, but we can't do that kind of research without data on clinical outcomes. We need new and innovative ways to pay for primary care so docs and patients are partners in managing chronic illnesses, not simply treating acute instances and having occasional office visits. We can't do this without the ability to coordinate care across providers and geography. For all these reasons, we need health care IT."

300 EMR Vendors

DOTmed recently spoke with Beverly Bell, partner of CSC Healthcare Group, a leading health IT consulting group. Bell informed us that there are more than 300 EMR vendors providing unique products, with some of the top players being eClinicalWorks, Epic, McKesson, Cerner, NextGen and Allscripts. For those who are still confused between the term electronic medical record and electronic health record, Bell mentioned that "EMR and EHR mean the same thing to most people in the industry and are used interchangeably. However, there are some definitions for both that are very slightly different."