HHS plans annual health IT report card

A panel funded by the Department of Health and Human Services will develop an assessment in the next nine months of the progress the nation is making toward adopting health information technology.

The national coordinator for health IT, Dr. David Brailer, announced today that his office had awarded a contract for the assessment project to George Washington University and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Institute for Health Policy.

Brailer declined to disclose the value of the contract, but said it was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, rather than millions. He said the one-year contract had optional extensions.

Within a month, researchers at GWU and Harvard will convene a panel of 15 experts and health care leaders to guide them in reviewing the many already-completed surveys of health IT use and synthesizing them into a single set of definitive numbers, Brailer said.

Besides measuring the current state of health IT adoption, he said, the researchers will create a methodology for measuring it over the years and generating an annual report. The report will show how much progress is being made toward the Bush administration’s goal of an interoperable electronic health record (EHR) for every American.

Brailer said the project also will point to disparities in adoption rates and reveal where the gaps are most pronounced, helping guide policy-makers seeking to bridge those gaps. He said it “can give us more insight and color about some of the particular policy consequences or undiscovered policy implications of the health IT agenda.”

One of the lead researchers, Dr. David Blumenthal of Harvard Medical School, said during a press conference that there are few surveys of interoperability of health records, and it will be a challenge for the researchers to figure out how to measure the degree of interoperability among EHRs.

Brailer said the work the Certification Commission for Health IT is doing under another contract from his office will help determine which EHR software products can be considered interoperable.

The contract to GWU and Harvard was the fourth Brailer’s office awarded in recent weeks.

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