I recently had a chance to connect with a former colleague and Health IT expert, Keith Smith. Keith is an independent Health IT consultant working closely with hospitals and private practices. He helps them manage the logistics for implementation as per their operational and technological needs. Given the recent surge in innovative Health IT solutions, I invited Keith to share some of his experiences and perspective on EMRs.
What is your opinion about the adoption numbers by CDC?
Well if you look at it from the perspective of ONC and the government, things are moving along at a decent pace. With adoption tipping over 55%, you can clearly sense a shift in tides. Moreover, according to the report, half of the physician populous that had not yet implemented an EMR solution was planning to do so within the next year.
How far do you think we have come in terms of the healthcare reform?
That’s a subjective question and I am sure there would be plenty of other opinions as well. I think the right way to look at it is to trace back from the end goals of improved health, longer life span, patient convenience, etc. Accountable Care Organizations in principle sum up what healthcare should be like. Right now we are in a transitional phase and most of the innovative solutions coming out are experimental at best. However, this year will be monumental for Health Information Exchanges and EHRs as we move towards connected care. Earlier this year, HIMSS Analytics released a 7 stage US Ambulatory EMR Adoption Model (UAEAM) that gauges the capabilities of health organizations to improve care quality through electronic medical records. According to this report, almost 11% of healthcare providers are at the third stage, having replaced the paper charts with EMRs backed up clinical decision support systems and capable of electronic messaging.
What do you think about the meaningful use measures?
I think the purpose of meaningful use (MU) was to educate the healthcare community on effective use of electronic medical records. While it does serve that purpose, MU’s objective based incentives can distract physicians from care quality to the fulfillment of these measures. Care is a service and I do not believe in standardization of care processes. It affects the individuality of the practice and often causes an ethical dilemma for providers. However, MU is voluntary and it has been effective for a number healthcare practitioners. The stimulus has helped many practices expand and improve their care delivery processes. Hence, I believe that this program can benefit the community at large, though it may be early to start measuring its success.