The world of health IT is continually evolving under the umbrella of affordable and accessible care ideology. Countless unique ideas are being implemented by innovative health IT companies. The EMR market alone has grown to around 800 vendors, while thousands of distinct mobile health solutions have penetrated the lives of patients and medical practitioners. We are witnessing the transformation of the healthcare system itself and the re-alignment of its culture. The emergence of Accountable Care Organizations along with the projected use of health IT and EMRs to drive improved care quality is helping foster a culture of constant growth in the healthcare industry.
However, as the government establishes the foundation for the health IT industry, it should be wary of the influence it places on EMR vendors. Standardization has been effective in driving appropriate use of EMR systems. It helps users and developers in streamlining operations and identifying product weaknesses respectively. Meaningful use incentives for the use of EMR systems, has influenced vendors to design a product according to the requirements set forth by CMS. While it has addressed certain issues, it has also resulted in the oversight of the usability of EMRs by vendors. Creating a balance between the two is often complex and most EMR vendors have to settle for a compromise. A number of physicians feel that this causes the workflow to become restrictive and unappealing.
That being said, health IT experts argue that standardization is mandatory since it outlines an operational framework. For example, while using a patient’s medical information electronically or otherwise, security is of paramount importance. With EMRs poised to pave the way for connected care, they must comply with regulations such as HIPAA and the HITECH Act to help ensure patient health information security.
A health IT expert pointed out that meaningful use is in fact instigating the growth of health IT. “EMRs must become interoperable or lose face. Physicians have invested significantly in these systems and they expect to be able to fulfill the meaningful use requirements”, he commented in light of meaningful use stage two requirements.
A number of government funded research groups including Regional Extension Centers (RECs) work closely with EMRs to identify usability requirements. Some have created a broad infrastructure to help EMR vendors develop more user specific software. However, despite the increased efforts some vendors feel that regular intervention would eventually lead to most vendors providing identical solutions, thereby restricting competition and innovation.
An independent source explained how interoperability will force most EMR vendors to shift to a universal platform for documentation. “Britain’s plan to standardize EMR solutions did not end well, if anything the US government should learn from mistakes they made.”
Another source shared a different opinion, suggesting that interoperability was always included in the initial plan, “Vendors should take the responsibility to provide physicians with interoperable EMRs. The government has always been clear on how to utilize the systems.”
While there are different schools of thought, the diverse EHR market in the US will definitely pose a problem for standardization. However, vendors must not use standardization as an excuse for their shortcomings, but in fact should try to provide doctors with capable EMR solutions that help in enhancing the quality of care.