The ABCs of Defining Healthcare Information Technology Today

In our Orchard Software online forums, we have been getting a lot of questions regarding what the differences are among all of the acronyms affecting healthcare information technology. In this post, we deliver a break-down of all these acronyms in one location. Please comment below if you have any more questions.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) is the stimulus act from 2009 that started it all. The stimulus act included measures for upgrading the health IT (HIT) infrastructure to increase interoperability (making it easier for entities to share health information). The section of ARRA covering health IT is known as HITECH.

HITECH has two main arms:

  • ONC (Office of the National Coordinator) is charged with defining the standards that must be met for a system to become certified and overseeing the certified systems.
  • CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) is charged with defining the criteria needed to meet Meaningful Use and overseeing the users of the certified systems. Meaningful Use is the incentive for providers and hospitals to implement electronic systems. Basically, if they meet the Meaningful Use requirements, they will receive payment from CMS. Meaningful Use is a graduated process, defined in three stages. Each stage will build upon the others and increase the ability to share health information. Currently, only Stage 1 has been defined and is what is driving Meaningful Use today.

HIEs are Health Information Exchanges among many providers, hospitals, insurance companies, etc. HIEs can be local, regional, or statewide. HITECH established grant monies for states to develop HIEs. Many HIEs are now forming and are focusing on how data will be shared among the members of the HIE, since the members most likely will have a variety of EMR systems and each state can format their own program under the current Stage 1 rule.

RECs are Regional Extension Centers. The ONC has funded RECs to offer technical assistance, guidance, and information on best practices to support and accelerate healthcare providers