In 2009, President Obama signed The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. The HITECH Act promotes the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology. So what does this mean for you as a patient and/or a healthcare provider?

The HITECH Act incentivizes healthcare providers to move their patient records from paper file into digital/electronic files. There are many benefits of electronic health files for both the patients and providers*:

  1. Enhanced Patient Safety:Warnings and alert systems are typically integrated in the software, allowing users to identify drug interactions and allergies before finalizing a prescription.
  2. Faster Access to Patient Information:With just a few clicks, prescribers can access a patient’s insurance information, eligibility information and current/past medication lists.
  3. Improved Accuracy:The National Center for Biotechnology Information research shows e-prescribing reduces the rate of prescribing errors.
  4. Increased Patient Convenience:Instead of dropping off a prescription and waiting for it to be filled, patients can make one trip to the pharmacy to pick up medication orders sent digitally.
  5. Guaranteed Legibility:Pharmacists don’t have to decipher a prescriber’s handwriting when they use an electronic device, making dosage and drug information clearly legible from the start.
    * source

The goal of the HITECH Act is not just to put computers into physician’s offices and in hospitals, but rather to use them toward the five goals for the US healthcare system: improve quality, safety and efficiency; engage patients in their care; increase coordination of care; improve the health status of the population; and ensure privacy and security.

In addition, the HITECH Act enforces HIPAA requirements with penalties/fines for violations. Fines can be up to $250,000, and repeated violations can increase to $1.5 million. (www.compliancy-group.com)

The Bottom Line: The HITECH Act provides security through digital personal health information