With $3.1 billion awarded to doctors who are buying and learning how to use electronic health records (EHRs), Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleeen Sebelius told a Kansas City community college that 41,000 doctors and 2,000 hospitals were on the road to meaningfully using the technology — double the number of EHR users in 2 years.

That’s how “stimulating” the ARRA HITECH stimulus funds have been — a glass half-full interpretation of the data. A survey of health providers conducted by the American Hospital Association learned that the proportion of EHR-using providers grew from 16% to 35% between 2009 and 2011.

Secretary Sebelius makes an important point delivering this news on a community college campus: these institutions of higher learning will be an important source of training for what’s envisioned to be increased demand for 50,000 health IT workers who need to implement and support the EHR systems.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Clearly, stimulus funds are stimulating sales and implementations of EHRs. But of course, there’s more to the story.

IVANS surveyed 700 health providers in January 2012 and found that 26% of eligible hospitals and doctors have no plans to move toward Stage 1 of meaningful use. Furthermore, among those who are implementing EHRs, health IT vendors have been slow to help with key aspects of implementation, such as waiting for technology upgrades and effectively integrating with workflow.

And interoperability remains elusive.

This week’s meeting at HIMSS will reveal vendors’ strategies for filling up that half-empty EHR glass. Stay tuned to Health Populi and my tweets @healthythinker for more on this evolving story…