Making the Move to EHR not Always Painless
EHR (electronic health records) adoption and implementation among physician practices is on the rise. According to a UBM Medica Insights 2013 Technology Survey of more than 1,200 physician respondents 76% reported partial, full or hospital-system EHRs, and 52% have seen improved workflow as a direct result of EHR implementation. Simply put, EHRs are the digital version of a patient’s paper chart, bringing together in one place everything about a patients’ health. EHRs contain information about a patient’s medical history, diagnoses, medications, immunization dates, allergies, radiology images, and lab and test results; offer access to evidence-based tools that providers can use in making decisions about a patient’s care; automate and streamline providers’ workflows; increase organization and accuracy of information; and support key market changes in payer requirements and consumer expectations.
In spite of all of these benefits, there are still issues with the implementation of EHRs. The most pressing information technology problems are EHR adoption and implementation (17%), cost to implement and use new technologies (16%), meeting “meaningful use” requirements (12%), IT/tech support (12%), keeping up with new technologies (10%), resistance to technology adoption by physicians or staff (6%), and other issues such as billing, training and record keeping (27%)
The need for privacy and security is major concern when it comes to healthcare and as America moves toward broader adoption of EHRs, Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs can help providers with the transition if they adopt and make “meaningful use” of electronic health records. “Meaningful use” is the set of standards defined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Incentive Programs that govern the use of EHRs and allows eligible providers and hospitals to earn incentive payments by meeting specific criteria. The goal of meaningful use is to promote the spread of EHRs to improve healthcare in the U.S. and the benefits are complete and accurate information, better access to information, and patient empowerment. In order to be eligible for the money, the electronic record systems they adopt must conform to strict technical standards and be certified as meeting them.
On July 28, 2010, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued its first set of these standards, which are designed to ensure that the systems are secure and reliable. Another key goal is to make certain that data collected by one system is compatible with data collected by another. This will allow healthcare providers the ability to exchange patient information, which will help them operate more efficiently and improve patient care. For some healthcare providers, incompatibility among systems is not an issue. They have taken the position that their medical records are their own proprietary information, and they see little need to share them with others. But in passing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and, more recently, the Recovery Act sections on health information technology, Congress has decreed that patients have a right to obtain the information in their own records.
In the digital age, that means that a patient’s records from one healthcare provider must be able to move seamlessly to another, and be readily readable and usable there. Once the standards-compliant EHRs are in widespread use, it will become easier to send records securely over the Internet from one doctor’s office, hospital, or health system to another.
There are many other reasons to standardize record systems. More broadly, standardized records that contain information about patient experiences will yield a wealth of information about what works and doesn’t work in medicine. That collective knowledge may be used to drastically improve healthcare or to improve the health of diverse groups of people. Standardization will also make it easier to improve electronic health record systems in years to come.
- Eight in ten caregivers (79%) have access to the internet. Of those, 88% look online for health information, outpacing other internet users on every health topic included in a Pew Internet & American Life Project survey, from looking up certain treatments to hospital ratings to end-of-life decisions. (Pew Internet & American Life Project)
- Thirty percent of U.S. adults help a loved one with personal needs or household chores, managing finances, arranging for outside services, or visiting regularly to see how they are doing. Most are caring for an adult, such as a parent or spouse, but a small group cares for a child living with a disability or long-term health issue. The population breaks down as follows: 24% of U.S. adults care for an adult. 3% of U.S. adults care for a child with significant health issues, 3% of U.S. adults care for both an adult and a child and 70% of U.S. adults do not currently provide care to a loved one.
(Pew Internet & American Life Project)
- Flu vaccines are typically produced by growing influenza virus in chicken eggs, which means people with egg allergies may develop a serious reaction, A newly FDA-approved vaccine, Flubok, avoids this risk by replicating the virus in cells derived from the fall army worm moth. The method has not been used for other vaccines but not the flu until now. What’s more, it allows for much quicker vaccine production, which will make more doses available sooner if there is ever a flu pandemic. (Cidrap)
- Scientists are hoping to develop new drugs from the skin of the Russian brown frog after discovering that it secretes antimicrobial gas. Since many frogs live in dark, wet places teeming with germs, their skin must serve as armor against these microscopic threats, scientists theorized. When Moscow State University researchers extracted the gas from living frogs, they found 76 new chemicals with antibacterial and antifungal properties – some as powerful as prescription antibiotics. Researchers plan to collaborate with pharmaceutical companies to synthetically produce these substances. (Albert T. Lebedev, PhD, Dept. of Organic Chemistry, Moscow State University)