Thursday, 19 April 2012

EMR systems and The Meaningful use

With more physicians adopting the Electronic Health Records (EHR), we can only expect the attestation of such systems to also be on the rise. It is a shame to note that a great number of hospitals still continue to use the paper records despite the financial incentive for meeting the meaningful use requirements. The meaningful use guidelines set aside billions of dollars to be claimed by Medicare and Medicaid health care givers for successful EHR transition. Most hospitals are however, stuck with hybrid records. That is to say, they are using both paper records and electronic records at the same time. This is due to the expensive paper records scanning which most hospitals can barely afford. Only about half of the hospitals have scanned what they need and are within their budgets. Another 23% are within their budgets but still have loads of records to scan. With this fact, it is safe to assume hybrid records are here to stay, because complete transition may take several years.

The two approaches in meeting the meaningful use requirements are;

The modular approach: Transition to a paperless office is done on an incremental basis. The practices can adopt individual certified modules that fulfil the HITECH meaningful use when combined. This method is mainly used by practises that are not sure about making the change or those that are about to retire. Practices that want to test the waters first before jumping ship also adopt this method. Using this approach also allows the practitioner to change from one EHR system to another.
The EHR approach: This is the full transition to the electronic system at once. It is quite expensive and so many practitioners prefer to adopt the free web based EHR systems.
Whichever approach the health care giver decides to take will eventually lead them to meet the meaningful use requirements of each stage. The modular approach is promoted by the 2011 and 2012 HITECH stimulus incentives structure; it has less stringent requirements in addition to higher incentive payments for the first 2 years. This by far is the most appealing approach. Practises are known to benefit from a quick implementation and a high ROI.

The core objectives of the stimulus program listed below. Out of this, practitioners only need to demonstrate that they meet at least twenty of these requirements in order to be legible for the HITECH Act summary incentive package.

  • Report Clinical Quality Measures
  • Record Vital Signs and Chart Changes
  • Record Smoking Status
  • Record Patient Demographics
  • Protect Health Information
  • Medication Orders
  • Maintain Problem List
  • Maintain Allergy List
  • Maintain Active Meds List
  • Implement a Clinical Decision Support Rule
  • Exchange key Clinical Information
  • Electronic Prescribing
  • Electronic patient Copies of Health Information
  • Drug/Drug and Drug/Allergy Interaction Checks
  • Clinical Summaries
Medicare and Medicaid providers who meet the HITECH act requirements are bagging checks as large as $21K in 2011 and there is the potential to earn more than $63K by 2015. That is not all, the nation’s healthcare system is going to have tremendous improvement and offer better and speedy services. It is expected to improve on the quality of health care delivered, safety and privacy provisions not forgetting efficiency of health care given to patients. In so doing, there will be a remarkable change including

  1. Reduction in errors,
  2. Higher availability and easy access of patients’ health information,
  3. Physicians will have automatic reminders and alerts of their scheduled appointments, and updates
  4. Unprecedented clinical support,
  5. Electronic prescribing capabilities, just to mention a few.       

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