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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Health Information Technology

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What Should Every Provider Know About Health IT?

Health IT is a broad term encompassing various clinical applications.  Below are the key applications and their definitions, as defined by the National Alliance for Health Information Technology (NAHIT):

  • Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are electronic records of patients’ health-related information that can be created, gathered, managed, and consulted by authorized clinicians and staff.
  • Personal Health Records (PHRs) are electronic records of patients’ health-related information that can be drawn from multiple sources (including the patient) while being managed, shared, and controlled by the individual.
  • Health Information Exchange (HIE) is the electronic movement of health-related information among health organizations according to nationally recognized standards.
  • Electronic Prescribing (e-Prescribing) is the computer-based electronic generation, transmission, and filling of a prescription that replaces paper and faxed prescriptions.

Health IT is a key government initiative. In 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was passed to encourage the rapid adoption and meaningful use of health IT. HITECH created new incentives and designated funds for reimbursing eligible Medicare and Medicaid providers for the use of EHRs. To receive these payments, providers must demonstrate, at a minimum, "meaningful use" of certified EHR technology according to the Meaningful Use Final Rule published by CMS. The EHR Incentive Program is a 3-stage effort, with each stage building on the requirements of the previous stage. Guidance for Stage 1 was released in July 2010.

Related Resources:

HRSA has developed a toolbox for health centers, safety net providers, and ambulatory care providers and organizations considering health IT adoption. It includes resources and information that will be useful as you consider purchasing and adopting EHR systems and other health IT technologies.

Health IT Adoption Toolbox – These HRSA toolbox modules cover the life cycle of a typical health IT implementation project, from learning the basics to evaluating and optimizing a health IT system.  Also included are modules on PHRs, e-Prescribing, privacy and security, and open source and public domain software.

Health IT Toolbox Webinars – These HRSA webinars offer presentations by well-known health IT experts on topics of relevance to HRSA providers. Topics include EHR use for quality and health outcomes improvement; Meaningful Use of EHRs; and successful strategies for integrating EHRs and practice management systems into small to mid-sized provider practices and community health clinics.

In addition to tools available through HRSA, other useful resources include:

  • AIDS.gov – This Federal website provides information on HIV/AIDS testing and prevention, treatment, policies, programs and resources using emerging communication strategies.
  • Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) go to exit disclaimer website offers information and resources on numerous health IT topics, such as EHR Adoption, Engagement & Implementation go to exit disclaimer, and Meaningful Use and EHR Certification go to exit disclaimer.
  • EHR Incentive Program (Meaningful Use), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) official website of the Medicaid and Medicare EHR Incentive Programs describes registration procedures, eligibility requirements, and criteria for demonstrating Meaningful Use.
  • Health Affairs, a prominent health policy journal, has collated all of its health IT articles on a single webpage go to exit disclaimer.  While many of the articles are accessible at no cost, some require an individual or institutional subscription.
  • Other useful news and reporting on health IT is available on the California HealthCare Foundation's iHealthBeat go to exit disclaimer website.
Developed by the Health Resources and Services Administration as a resource for health centers and other safety net and ambulatory care providers who are seeking to implement health IT.
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Health Information Technology Toolboxes help health centers, safety net providers, and ambulatory care providers with electronic and online resources and technical assistance to improve patient care.  More>
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