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Health IT Funding Widens Digital Divide

CMS’s electronic health record incentive programs have paid out some $25.4 billion to hospitals and eligible providers as of September 2014.

For those eligible hospitals and providers, these incentive payouts have been well received.

Those care providers whom did not receive payments, however, are not as fortunate as this has widened a digital divide between those who qualify and those who don’t.

This study, published by interoperability software company Inofile, speaks to the challenges the providers who do not qualify are facing; they are still predominantly lacking the health IT infrastructure necessary for health information exchange.

The majority of providers that lack this technology include long-term acute care hospitals, rehabilitation hospitals, and psychiatric hospitals. These types of facilities don’t just stand out for their “dismally low” rates of health IT and EHR adoption, but because they all do not qualify for the meaningful use incentive program.

Such low numbers of health IT adoption among these providers are also concerning because their potential affect with transitions of care and care coordination, as it is estimated that 60 percent of medication errors happen during care transition.

Proper health IT, however, could assist in preventing these errors by ensuring correct patient information when transitioning between facilities, such as from short term to long-term care.

The types of hospitals that are eligible for meaningful use include critical access hospitals, Medicare Advantaged (MA-Affiliated hospitals), acute care hospitals with at least 10% Medicaid patient volume, and children’s hospitals. While this list seems encompassing, it still does not include 1,511 hospitals that Definitive Healthcare’s hospital database tracks.
This list of 1,511 hospitals includes non eligible facilities such as rehabilitation hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, and religious non-medical health care institution.

While it is good that the majority of facilities, such as the short term acute care hospitals, are eligible for incentives and making progress with health IT, it is important that we don’t count out the providers that are not considered for these particular incentives.

In order to truly reform our healthcare system, all providers should eventually be able to be involved with improvements in health IT before an even wider divide occurs.

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