The 2009 HITECH Act authorized incentives by the federal government on a massive scale to push healthcare providers to adopt information technology in the form of electronic health record (EHR) systems. It showed that the government is serious in improving healthcare while cutting costs at the same time.

Here some signs of the revolution that happened in 2011 that will propel healthcare IT forward in 2012 and beyond:

• The birth of innovation programs that promote and encourage development of health care applications.

• EHR in a box – EHR software sold at Costco warehouses. EHRs are becoming a commodity. Over 1,500 are certified, up by 300 in 2010.

• Tablet proliferation – led by iPad, the high volume of tablets purchased for use in healthcare settings. One example in cost savings is the specialized touchscreen tablets use by radiologists cost $3,000 compared to $500 for the iPad.

• Progress by the Regional Extension Centers – 116,000 primary care providers – more than one-third of the nation’s primary care providers – signed up with the RECs to adopt and use EHRs.

• Mobile apps – Apps are available to monitor health, diet, and engage consumers (Text4Baby).

• 130,000 medical providers use Practice Fusion, a free web-based Electronic Health Record. There are many costs to implementing an EHR, but expensive software doesn’t have to be one of them.

• High Tech enables more high touch healthcare – Less time spent filling out paperwork for both the provider and patient leaves more time for doctors to listen to their patients.

• 34% of office-based physicians reported having a system that met the criteria of a basic EHR system in a CDC survey.

• The Blue Button was a hit – 430,000 veterans whacked the original estimate of 25,000 veterans by using the system to download, store or print medical information.

What happens next? Patients, families, and people like us need to take advantage of the technologies being put in place. We need to be proactive and use apps available to us on our smart phones, the web, and in our doctor’s offices. By using the information that is available from technology, we can take better care of ourselves and others. Consumers should expect that their health information is available to them quickly and easily to share with others. The right information is useful only if it is available at the right time and right place.