Under the HITECH Act of 2009, primary care physicians, hospitals and other medical organizations are eligible to receive financial incentives for implementing electronic health records within the next few years.
In fact, the federal government has set aside $20 billion in stimulus money to entice the medical community to embrace electronic record-keeping, which the Obama administration believes will increase productivity and ensure patient safety. Furthermore, healthcare organizations that fail to implement a digital records system by 2017 are subject to heavy fines and penalties, and could see their Medicare reimbursements get drastically reduced.
Even though healthcare providers have been slow to adopt these new electronic systems, the involvement of the federal government has attracted many technology companies to the digital medical records space. Analysts with Forrester Research expect the U.S. healthcare technology market to explode to a $50 billion industry over the next two years. Companies like IBM, Xerox, Dell and Accenture are all currently establishing their position in the thriving market, Forrester's Andrew Bartels told the Wall Street Journal.
Not far behind these companies are several Indian corporations that have had a great deal of success with software outsourcing.
Pradep Nair, head of the healthcare practice at New Delhi's HCL Technologies, told the Journal that medical technology spending in the U.S. is "like another Y2K opportunity," referring to the millennium bug that gave Indian outsourcers years of work.
Unfortunately for these companies, the U.S. healthcare industry has been extremely reluctant to embrace outsourcing firms.
"Though it is never said overtly, it is much harder for Indian suppliers to get these kinds of contracts than their American counterparts," Nishant Verma, vice president at Bangalore outsourcing firm Tholons, Inc., explained to the news source.
One of the reasons for this perceived inequity has to do with privacy concerns and the liability that the healthcare community takes on when they ship sensitive personal information overseas.
George Conklin, chief information officer of Christus Health, told the Journal that patient confidentiality takes a backseat as soon as medical files leave the U.S. border.
However, Indian outsourcing companies have said that they are forced to adhere to the same regulations that U.S. technology companies are forced to follow.
For now, U.S. healthcare firms are spending their money with domestic technology companies. It will be interesting to see if this issue exacerbates the already poor relationship that the U.S. has with India concerning business partnerships.
Beecher Tuttle is a HealthTechZone contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Tammy Wolf