The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) provided the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with the authority to establish programs to improve health care quality, safety, and efficiency through the promotion of health IT, including electronic health records (EHRs) and a private and secure electronic health information exchange.
Additionally, the act works to update and strengthen existing laws and HIPAA privacy protections to facilitate the secure movement of appropriate information through the health care system.
Under HITECH, eligible health care professionals and hospitals can qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments when they adopt certified EHR technology and use it to achieve specific objectives. If providers can show they have met a set of criteria, i.e., achieved “meaningful use,” they will receive incentive payments. Providers receiving Medicaid payments had until 2016 to achieve meaningful use or face penalties. Standards for structured data that EHRs must use to qualify for the incentive program were established by CMS and ONC. Providers must use a certified EHR to receive the incentive payment.
An EHR is an electronic version of a patient’s medical history. The EHR may include demographics, progress notes, medications, vital signs, past medical history, immunizations, laboratory data and radiology reports. The EHR automates access to information and has the potential to streamline the clinician's workflow. The EHR also has the ability to support other care-related activities directly or indirectly through various interfaces, including evidence-based decision support, quality management and outcomes reporting.