The Economic Stimulus Package, contained within the recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), is a hugely important domestic initiative. Within ARRA is a $19,200,000,000 appropriation for implementation of healthcare information technology (HIT) including $2,000,000,000 for infrastructure.

A major domestic priority of the new administration, and one of the major goals of the legislation, is to implement electronic health records (EHR) for all Americans by 2014, and accelerate the adoption of healthcare information technology. The administration's objectives are to: save lives, increase health care efficiencies, reduce waste and cut healthcare costs.  These goals were declared in 2004 when President Bush issued Executive Order 13335 directing the "development and nationwide implementation of an interoperable health information technology infrastructure."

By implementing EHR and a nationwide health information technology infrastructure, a physician will be able to obtain a patient's medical history, including reports, laboratory and clinical data and diagnostic imaging information, at the precise moment when it's needed. The multitude of errors which result from the use of paper records should consequently be greatly reduced and thus greatly improve healthcare delivery in the U.S.

To reach these ambitious objectives, it will require close coordination among the many key interests who have a stake in this issue. These include: healthcare providers, medical IT vendors, patient groups, government entities, e.g. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS, and HIT – interested organizations such as the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), and the Health Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP).

MITA stands to play a pivotal role in achieving these objectives. This is because transmission of medical images, reports and data depend on the interoperability of systems in various locations. To achieve interoperability there must be a common language to enable computer systems to communicate, even if these systems are manufactured by different vendors. This cannot be done without the implementation of interoperability standards, such as the Digital Imaging and Communication in Medicine (DICOM) Standard and the Health Level – 7 (HL-7) Standard. With MITA's experience of over 80 years in the development of standards, its role as the responsible party for the development, maintenance and preservation of the integrity of the DICOM standard, and its active participation in development of the HL-7 standard, MITA is uniquely positioned to help achieve the creation and implementation of the HIT infrastructure.

In the coming weeks and months, MITA will be planning to become actively engaged in creation of a health IT infrastructure. There are also plans for MITA to work closely with NIST in the testing and certification of systems for meeting interoperability criteria. These are exciting times for MITA, and we look forward to addressing the challenges ahead in 2009 and beyond.


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