Healthcare professionals have now become accustomed to working with electronic medical records to perform their daily operations. These systems are no longer viewed as tools to record clinical information to be viewed at a later time. Thanks to the support and rules set forth by the CMS in the Meaningful Use initiative, providers and EMR vendors have all had to incorporate positive changes in existing workflows, system design, usage and development of these systems. This has meant that the industry has grown to hundreds of different vendors, offering one thing over another in attempts to beat their rivals.
The Meaningful Use initiative has now come a long way with an advisory committee working hard to finalize its most advanced phase – stage 3. The health IT policy committee’s Meaningful Use workgroup places much greater emphasis on clinical decision support and machine-readability of data among other things. They also propose greater usage of CPOE (Computerized Physician Order Entry) along with electronic referrals in this final stage of the EHR incentive program.
The proposed rules also require for providers to have at least 10% of their patients submit information such as medical history, demographics and even information captured from home-based medical devices, directly into the electronic health records through online portals. Care coordination is also highlighted, as providers are required to create and transmit care plans across multiple sites in case of patients moving from one location to another.
Similarly, the optional requirements under stage 2 will be considered as the fundamental measures under the stage 3 rules. Also, they would become obligatory subject to the provisions of the final rule in stage 2, which is expected any to be established any day now. In February this year, HHS announced the proposed rules for Meaningful Use stage 2, set to be implemented in FY2014. Considering the present timeline, Meaningful Use Stage 3 would commence two years after an eligible provider first satisfies the stage 2 requirements, which means no earlier than 2016.
Eligible providers will be required to record potentially confidential data such as gender information or identity. They also recommend eradication certain measures such as recording the patient smoking status. As for enhancing population health, the workgroup recommends physicians to use electronic health records for creating patient lists for particular conditions in order to establish a pattern. This will significantly reduce health disparities and research. Having said that, we may have to wait till May 2013, which is when HHS would propose its final stage 3 rules, to witness the real impact of the Meaningful Use criteria on the healthcare industry.