Study: HITECH Act drove EHR adoption

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 Annual EHR adoption rates among eligible and ineligible hospitals increased after the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act went into effect, according to a study in Health Affairs.

The HITECH Act incentives EHR adoption through its meaningful use program. However, since only short-term acute care hospitals were eligible for the act's incentive program, there has been a debate about the extent to which large increases in hospitals' EHR adoptions can be attributed to the HITECH Act.

The study, conducted by Julia Adler-Milstein, PhD, at the Ann Arbor-based University of Michigan and Ashish K. Jha, MD, at the Boston-based Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, compared national hospital data on EHR adoption for the period 2008 to 2010 to the period 2011 to 2015. The authors concluded the increases in EHR adoption were attributable to the law.

Among eligible hospitals, EHR adoption rates in pre-HITECH Act period were 3.2 percent. This rate increased to 14.2 percent in the post-HITECH Act period. Ineligible hospitals, comparatively, saw adoption rates of 0.1 percent in the initial period and 3.3 percent in the later period.

"Our findings reinforce the common notion that incentives work and we now know that's true for health IT infrastructure," Dr. Adler-Milstein said. "So where market failures exist, and given the current political interest in infrastructure investment, government incentives should perhaps be more widely used."

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