What is the HITECH Act?

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) which was passed February 17, 2009. According to the Final Rule documentation, two titles of the ARRA , Title IV of Division B and Title XIII of Division A, constitute the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act or HITECH Act. Title IV amends the Social Security Act to establish incentive payment programs for eligible professionals, eligible hospitals, critical access hospitals and Medicare Advantage Organizations to encourage these entities to adopt meaningful use of healthcare information and certified electronic health records.

The bill has four main goals to improve health information technology:

  • Give the government a leadership role in the development of standards in the general use of and the exchange of electronic health information. These standards are intended to improve quality and coordination of care.
  • Invest billions of dollars in healthcare infrastructure and incentive programs to reward eligible professionals (EP) and hospitals that use certified systems to electronically exchange patient information.
  • Save billions of dollars by improving quality and coordination of care and reducing medical errors and duplicative care.
  • Strengthen requirements on security and privacy related to healthcare information.
While the U.S. Government has been encouraging the healthcare industry to move toward electronic health records since 2004, they received limited response. President Bush set aside millions of dollars to fund demonstration projects to ‘test the effectiveness of health information technology and establish best practices for more widespread adoption in the healthcare industry’ and established the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to lead the way. The HITECH Act, put in place by the Obama Administration, has established a less voluntary approach since there are financial incentives for those who participate and financial penalties for those who choose not participate or do not adopt in a timely manner.