The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1), the economic stimulus bill that the President signed into law on February 17, 2009 (P.L. 111-5). The HITECH Act is intended to promote the widespread adoption of health information technology (HIT) to support the electronic sharing of clinical data among hospitals, physicians, and other healthcare stakeholders. HIT is widely viewed as a necessary and vital component of healthcare reform. Through 2019, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the HITECH Act will save the Medicare and Medicaid programs a total of about $12.5 billion.
The HITECH Act provides financial incentives for HIT use among healthcare providers. The legislation authorizes Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments to encourage eligible professionals and eligible hospitals to adopt and use certified electronic health record (EHR) systems. Those incentive payments are phased out over time and replaced by financial penalties (Medicare only) for providers and hospitals that are not using certified EHRs.
The HITECH Act includes a series of privacy and security provisions that expand the current requirements under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The legislation strengthens enforcement of the HIPAA privacy rule and creates a right to be notified in the event of a breach of identifiable health information. Finally, the HITECH Act recognizes the need for a workforce development program in anticipation of an increasing demand for health information technology professionals.
The New Jersey Health Information Technology Coordinator’s Office oversees the New Jersey Health IT Program and implementation of the New Jersey Operational HIT Plan. The New Jersey Operational HIT Plan, approved by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) in January 2011, focuses on the following key initiatives:
1. Helping Healthcare Providers Make the Transition to Electronic Health Records
Providing all New Jerseyans with electronic health records is the core mission of the New Jersey Health IT Program. Health information technology makes it possible for healthcare providers to better manage patient care through secure use and sharing of health information. The New Jersey Health Information Technology Extension Center (NJ-HITEC), which was granted $23 million in Federal funds to establish a statewide regional extension center, is currently assisting physician offices with the adoption and use of EHRs.
2. Establishing Health Information Organizations
There are many hospitals, physicians, Federally Qualified Healthcare Centers and other healthcare providers that are already participating in one of the State’s regional health information organizations (HIOs). The HIOs allow health data to be gathered confidentially and securely from all the patient’s providers, and then shared among physicians, hospitals, pharmacies, labs and community healthcare providers within the HIO’s membership for the benefit of the patient. The majority of the $11.4 million in State Health Information Exchange Cooperative Agreement Program grant funding made available through the HITECH Act is intended to build regional HIO capabilities.
3. Connecting through a Statewide/Nationwide Exchange
The New Jersey Health Information Network (NJHIN) will be established to facilitate data exchange among the HIOs operating in the State, allow HIOs to access State data sources such as Medicaid and immunization registry information, and provide a gateway to connect to other states via the Nationwide Health Information Network (NwHIN).