The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is not without risk

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has created quite a flutter of activity in healthcare during the past several months. I can’t remember a time when something was such a popular topic. Everywhere you look, Twitter, Facebook, personal blogs, professional blogs, and so on are talking about how to demonstrate “meaningful use” and get their hot little hands on some cash.

While the idea is sound, the implementation has something to be desired. The overwhelming attention to the definition of “meaningful use” and the looming 2011 timeline has created some unwanted side effects to the ARRA. Hospitals have started throwing project plans in reverse for significant revision or throwing them out the window and starting over all together. Projects that may have been in the pipeline for months, or years, are now taking a back seat to the ARRA requirements. Project development and timelines are involved processes that are designed to work around several variables such as capital budgets, current software and hardware specs, and available human resources.

Many healthcare systems have yet to develop a plan to implement many of the requirements necessary to meet the ARRA “meaningful use” criteria. If a healthcare systems wasn’t ready to begin the process at any time over the past several years what makes the US government think they’ll be ready just because they say so? Is the infrastructure in place? Do they have the resources to not only implement, but support the new systems as well? These are all questions that people should be asking. I for one am disappointed in our facility as we have decided to immediately move forward with projects that weren’t slated for another 18-24 months. To make this happen other projects have been placed lower in the priority queue, creating a lack of resources that risk jeopardizing the quality of both implementations.

Healthcare systems should not be directed down a path that they feel unprepared to face. Doing so will only invite failure.

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