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Deb Bass, Executive Director, The Nebraska Health Information Initiative

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was enacted on February 17, 2009. Included in ARRA was the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, also known as HITECH.1 The act was designed to promote the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology, and by March 15, 2010, $548 million in grants had been awarded to states, territories, and State Designated Entities to fund patient-centric information flow among healthcare providers. The goal of this exchange of health data is to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare while helping to move state-level Health Information Exchange (HIE) toward nationwide interoperability.2


Additional dollars have been awarded in the form of the Beacon Community and the HIE Challenge Grant programs. These efforts were designed to help communities build and strengthen their HIEs; focus on producing measurable health improvements through greater efficiencies; improve care transitions; provide patient access to their data safely, securely, and effectively while giving them options on when and how their data can be shared and with whom; and increase the use of reporting and analytics to benefit population health.


Through the growing adoption of HIE, we are beginning to transform the way we think about service delivery in healthcare. By placing the patient in the center of the transformation and keeping the question "What is best for our patient?" at the forefront of our thinking, we can begin to facilitate the transformation that needs to occur.


Healthcare delivery systems are far too complex and segmented, and the patient is often given conflicting messages. Too often they feel the need for an interpreter to translate how their treatment plan relates to all the different healthcare players across the spectrum. With health information exchange, however, the entire health record is in the hands of the providers as well as the consumer. This comprehensive view allows questions to be addressed with the understanding of the big picture rather than snapshots and segments of communication and isolated test results. Armed with an awareness of their complete treatment plan, consumers will be empowered to ask questions and expect answers.


As nurses, we should be visible advocates for our patients and the struggles they face in understanding the complexities of the healthcare delivery system. We need to empower them to take ownership, seek additional information, and ask questions-to own their treatment plans rather than accept the current state of affairs. Consumers will drive the transformation that is about to occur, and we as nurses will play a key role in igniting the flames of empowerment and engagement.


As a nurse, I am gratified that technology has been embraced as a vital tool of our profession. As I expressed in 2010 when providing closing remarks in my testimony before the Congressional Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation, "I too was a registered nurse for 20 years before I went into technology, and I'm very thankful that because of the work you're doing, people are no longer asking me what technology has to do with nursing."




1. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Accessed November 11, 2011. [Context Link]


2. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Accessed November 11, 2011. [Context Link]