Anyone who has taken a trip to the doctor in the past several years has noticed the healthcare industry’s increased efforts to keep electronic health records (EHR). While most healthcare professionals and hospitals have implemented the technology, they are struggling to find the resources to make meaningful use of that technology.
In 2009, congress enacted the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH). This act called for the voluntary adoption of EHRs in healthcare facilities across the country with the purpose of establishing a national electronic patient records system by 2014 and providing comprehensive records privacy and security standards.
Under HITECH, eligible health care professionals and hospitals can qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments when they adopt certified EHR technology. To earn these incentives, healthcare professionals and hospitals must achieve meaningful use; meaningful use objectives and measures evolving in three stages:
Benefits of EHRs
If used properly, EHRs have many benefits including:
- Complete and accurate information – Doctors can have a patient’s entire medical history at the click of a button.
- Improved access to information – EHRs lead to better coordination of information, which means records can be shared across healthcare providers.
- Patient empowerment – EHRs allow patients to access their records online.
The struggle to achieve meaningful use
The healthcare industry is undergoing a complete and taxing transformation. Just a few of the changes the industry is currently dealing with include a shift in focus to preventative medicine, a rapidly aging workforce, policy changes coming from every direction, and preparation for an influx of patients as the baby boomers are reaching retirement. With all of this happening, some are finding EHRs to be burdensome.
As you can imagine, EHR systems are not cheap. The operational costs alone are difficult for many to afford, but time is proving that the real investment is meeting the standards for meaningful use. To truly meet these standards, healthcare facilities need to hire staff to manage meaningful use achievement, audits, and adaption. Unfortunately, most facilities do not have the resources to make this happen.
As we near the start of Stage 2, some are calling for a delay so that all organizations have a chance to meet Stage 1 standards and catch up. While in theory a delay seems like a good idea, some experts believe it won’t do any good. They are suggesting that a delay will only give people a chance to procrastinate, while implementing Stage 2 will force organizations to form the necessary teams to meet meaningful use standards.
Share with us your experiences with meaningful use and your opinion on whether a delay in Stage 2 will help or hurt organizations.