Make or break year for health IT

This past year has seen the Obama Administration create a change process, and methods for measuring the success of that process. Now it's up to reformers to prove their case.

2010 will be the make or break year for health IT in hospitals and clinics.

This was set up by yesterday's release of final standards defining "meaningful use," under which billions of dollars in stimulus will be handed out.

Officials have chopped the cost of the program and no longer talk about automating everyone, in the wake of studies showing automation does not save money.

The new rules set 25 standards doctors must meet, and 23 hospitals must meet, to have their systems certified for federal dollars in 2011.

I think more important than the rules will be National Coordinator David Blumenthal's (right) success in creating "beacon communities," cities that establish best practices.

Uncovering the findings from that work will drive future regulations and will be key to defining success.

  • Will the beacon communities be saving money?
  • Will they be changing medical practices in a way others can replicate?
  • How will these changes be embedded in the rest of the system?

Each of these is a massive challenge. Right now the value of health IT is unproven. Proof needs to emerge. But we already know that proof brings changes with it. It's not getting that data that makes for cost reductions, it's using the data to drive change.

Change is hard.

This past year has seen the Obama Administration create a change process, and methods for measuring the success of that process. The process and methods are based on what reformers have told the Administration should work.

Now it's up to reformers to prove their case. If they can't the IT industry may find it has invested in the technological equivalent of a dry hole.

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