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Introduction and Commentary for Special Issue on Health Information Technology

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In 2009, as part of the so-called Stimulus Act, the federal government made a large investment in health information technology (health IT), designating up to $30 billion in incentive payments to providers to adopt and “meaningfully use” certified electronic health record (EHR) systems. The EHR Incentive Program's inclusion in this legislation—also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)—was apt (111th Congress of the United States 2009). Not only could health IT funding stimulate economic activity but it could also help modernize the health care system, lay the foundation for new health care delivery and payment models, and promote a learning health care environment.

Four years on, the results of the so-called Meaningful Use Program have been impressive. According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, as of July 2013 more than 80 percent of hospitals and almost 60 percent of providers had received a payment from the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive programs indicating that they had met requirements for adoption and/or “meaningful use” of health IT (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services 2013). In contrast, back in 2008, two well-regarded studies put national EHR adoption at only about 9 percent of hospitals and 17 percent of providers (DesRoches et al. 2008; Jha et al. 2009).

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