Electronic Health Records and Meaningful Use

William R. Pupkis, CMPE, Healthcare Consultant

ElRecAn electronic health record (EHR) is a systematic collection of a patient’s health information. This information can be shared across different health care settings, such as labs, hospitals, and pharmacies. While implementing an EHR system involves a significant investment of time and finances, the benefits of the program are numerous.

EHR systems allow you to view a patient’s entire history without having to locate previous records. Tracking possible trends and long-term changes in a patient is easier when you only have to pull information from one file. Lost forms or paperwork, illegible records, and out-of-date information are no longer concerns. All types of correspondence, including orders, lab results, consultations, and operative, radiology, and pathology reports can easily be transmitted and shared electronically, saving time and manpower.

Two incentive programs for the “meaningful use” of certified EHR technology have been established. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) oversee the Medicare program and the state Medicaid agencies manage the Medicaid program. For both programs, meaningful use consists of three stages with increasing requirements. Eligible participants must achieve and demonstrate specific objectives every year to qualify for the incentive program. As information is received and processed and vendors upgrade their systems to meet requirements, goals have been adjusted and deadlines have been extended. Visit the CMS website for an updated list of requirements and deadlines.

Basically, the goals of meaningful use involve using certified EHR technology to:

  • Improve quality and efficiency of health care and reduce health disparities
  • Engage patients and family
  • Improve care coordination and population and public health
  • Maintain privacy and security of patient health information

Stage 1 involves establishing a baseline for electronic data capture and information sharing. Stage 2 focuses more on information exchange and patient engagement. The objectives of Stage 3 will center on improved health outcomes. The ultimate goals of meaningful use compliance are better clinical outcomes, improved population health outcomes, increased transparency and efficiency, empowered individuals, and more robust research data on health systems.

There is a great deal of debate regarding meaningful use. The following websites will help keep you abreast of the latest updates:

The public are invited to submit comments on the recently released notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) (see www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=CMS-2014-0064-0002) that would allow providers participating in the EHR Incentive Programs to use the 2011 Edition or 2014 Edition of certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT) for the 2014 reporting year. Comments must be received by July 21, 2014 to be considered.

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