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5 ways HHS plans to improve quality and lower costs through health IT in 2013


Better use of technology in healthcare may be one of the best ways to lower costs and boost quality; at the very least, the federal government seems convinced that it is.

Anyone who pays attention to healthcare in the United States knows that the system could use an infusion of innovation to help boost quality while lowering costs.

Better use of technology in healthcare may be one of the keys to making that happen; at the very least, the federal government seems convinced that it is.

In that spirit, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced five agenda items for 2013 that it says will further its goals of improving quality and bringing down costs through technology.

"Health IT and the secure exchange of information across providers are crucial to reforming the system, and must be a routine part of care delivery," said HHS Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner in a statement.

Here's HHS' health IT agenda for this year:

  • Set aggressive goals: HHS want 50% of physician offices using electronic health records (EHRs) and 80% of hospitals receiving meaningful use payments by the end of 2013. In 2012, about 44% of physicians used EHRs, the agency said.

  • Increase the emphasis on interoperability: The agency will seek input on policies that will strengthen the business case for electronically exchanging patients' health information across providers.

  • Enhance the effective use of EHRs: An example of this is the Blue Button Initiative, which allows Medicare beneficiaries to download their own health records and share that information with health providers. HHS plans to expand the use of similar programs.

  • Implement meaningful use stage 2: The agency is implementing rules that define what data must be able to be exchanged between health IT systems, so that providers will have one uniform way to format and securely send data.

  • Ensure the integrity of incentive programs: HHS will conduct reviews to ensure that providers aren't using technology to "game the system" to artificially boost reimbursements or incentive payments.


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