National Coordinator for Health Information Technology David Blumenthal, MD, may be a short-timer, but he's not yet finished with his mission to facilitate rural healthcare providers' adoption of electronic record systems. Blumenthal, who announced last week that he will step down this spring to return to Harvard Medical School, is not coasting to the end of his term.
This week he took exception to a study published recently in the Archives of Internal Medicine that concluded that the use of an electronic health record system does not significantly improve the quality of patient care. The study data, he suggested, was flawed.
Since being appointed to his post by president Obama in 2009, Blumenthal has been an energetic advocate for EHRs. In an interview with HealthLeaders Media last year, Blumenthal articulated his vision for EHRs: "We envision a future where information follows patients," he said. "Unconstrained by competitive rivalry, unconstrained by geographic boundaries, unconstrained by cultural disinclinations to collaborate. We want teams to emerge in local communities that make exchange possible. And we will be using the meaningful use framework and all other levers at our disposal to try to make that possible."
And the federal HIT chief has not been shy about putting his (employer's) money where his mouth is. On Tuesday, his office announced $12 million in new federal funding to help critical access hospitals and rural hospitals adopt certified health information technology. That brings the total to $32 million since September for the nation's 62 Regional Extension Centers to help more than 100,000 primary care providers identify and share best practices in EHR adoption, meaningful use, and provider support.