EHR ADOPTION: Putting the Pieces Together
June 5, 2012
By Amit Trivedi, ICSA Labs, Program Manager-Healthcare

The U.S. health care system is undergoing a slow but steady technological revolution driven by the passing of the HITECH Act and the EHR Incentive programs that have resulted in thousands of eligible providers and hospitals implementing certified EHR technology products.

One of the chief characteristics of the incentive programs that drive adoption is that in order to obtain these incentives it is not enough to simply purchase certified technology. That technology needs to be used, and continued to be used in a way that will improve health care delivery.

Meaningful Use

“Meaningful Use” is the term coined to describe the specific set of benchmarks an eligible provider or hospital needs to meet to be able to qualify for the incentive program. There is a clear vision:

 “to enable significant and measurable improvements in population health through a transformed health care delivery system.” 

Meaningful Use is a multi-year, staged approach that outlines specific requirements and thresholds which will incrementally raise the bar over time – both for what eligible providers and hospitals need to accomplish to qualify for the incentives, as well increasing the requirements for the technology that is being used. Here is a summary of the three phases: 

Phase 1
We are currently in Stage 1, which began in early 2011, and will last until 2013. The purpose of this first phase was to “set the stage” for EHR technology adoption and   to kick start an industry-wide transformation to begin collecting and capturing data in coded format. Stage 1 has resulted in thousands of new certified EHR technology products by hundreds of different health IT vendors. 

Phase 2
The updated regulations detailing Stage 2 requirements are due to be published this summer. Stage 2 requirements will usher in an expanded exchange of clinical information in structured formats. Currently many EHR Technology vendors are updating their products in anticipation of the new requirements. 

Phase 3
Once Stage 3 arrives, it will represent a new era in Clinical Decision Support, patient self-management, and comprehensive access to clinical data – as future requirements will leverage the standardized data formats and exchanges facilitated by the previous stages.

Incentive Programs Results
The incentive programs have already helped to spur increased adoption of Health IT, which promise to introduce efficiencies in the health care system and expand access to care. Hospitals are updating their systems or implementing new software. For the first time, many smaller provider practices are becoming digitized.

EHR technology developers are being asked to rise to the challenge in an increasingly competitive market, and will need to provide the innovative tools that will drive transformation throughout the industry in the years to come.

The Future
However, there is still much room for improvement as the industry prepares for this next act. Many of today’s systems lack true interoperability, and are found lacking when it comes to usability.

Increased data availability and exchange also mean that the industry will need to cope with the challenges of maintaining patient privacy and network security.

An Innovative Outlook?

At the same time, there is no doubt that the Meaningful Use program has energized the health care industry and its stakeholders – hopefully this energy will result in the innovation necessary to improve our healthcare delivery system. 

What do you think? 


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