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On February 17, 2009, Congress passed the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, also known as ARRA. In it were two sections addressing health information technology (HIT), which together are known as the “HITECH” (Health Information Technology for Economic & Clinical Health). The HITECH Act was intended to nudge the adoption of HIT in two distinct ways:
1) Providing Medicare/Medicaid financial incentives to primary physicians and small hospitals who adopt EHRs in the next five years2) Developing an infrastructure for supporting best practices in HIT implementation, work process redesign, security and privacy considerations, and other critical factors driving successful use of HIT.The HITECH Act mandated a definition for “meaningful use” of Electronic Health Records (EHRs). Written into the law is a very aggressive timeline: both the Office of the National Coordinator of HIT (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have worked around the clock to meet many of the tight timelines for creating definitions and an infrastructure. The definition is pertinent to any health care professional, as it embraces the critical need that HIT be adopted in such a way that assures quality care and which embraces improved outcomes.The pertinence to dietitians and ADA can be summarized by two important facts:1. The HITECH Act targets only a small portion of health professionals for incentive payments. It does not include dietitians—or a host of physician specialists, social workers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, etc.2. The HITECH Act excludes dietitians and ADA only if we allow it to. The ADA has been working since before 1998 to position dietitians for inclusion in this kind of care. The Nutrition Care Process, Standardized Language, Evidence Analysis Library, Nutrition Informatics Work Groups and Committees, are among a few of the initiatives that create a solid foundation for our integration into this Infrastructure. In order to embrace the incentive program, critical policies and standards harmonization will help to create a robust infrastructure for HIT.ADA will continue to comment in areas of policy and regulation development as they pertain to nutrition care and how it should be supported by health information technology.