Top health technology official touts success as he steps down

David Blumenthal, the national coordinator for health information technology, said Tuesday that the U.S. healthcare system is now well on its way to becoming paperless - and is sparking a whole new innovative industry in the process.

Speaking at a Health Affairs briefing, Blumenthal said new federal regulations and investments have led to the offering of more than 450 certified electronic health record products offered by 280 companies - 64 percent of which have fewer than 50 employees.

"It creates a powerful new market," said Blumenthal, who has been the national coordinator since 2009 but is headed back to academia. "Here is a little microcosm of robust innovation in a market created by the new federal program."

Blumenthal recapped what the Obama administration's push for health information technology has achieved since the 2009 recovery act provided more than $30 billion for HIT investments. To date, he said, 34,000 providers have registered as "meaningful users" so they can get incentive payments to help them go paperless; and 50,000 primary care providers and rural hospitals have signed up for support at the nation's 62 Regional Extension Centers. 

"That seems to me an extraordinary expression on the part of our nation's doctors and hospitals of commitment to this new enterprise," said Blumenthal.