As the rate of EMR adoption grows across the country, physicians are beginning to express doubt regarding their ability in meeting the latest interoperability benchmarks. According to a study, approximately fifty percent of hospital administrators across the U.S felt that their hospitals were ready to meet the set forth in Meaningful Use stage 1 requirements. However, the remaining fifty percent were uncertain about the readiness of their organizations to comply with the latest CMS guidelines.
While the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was a clear attempt to lure practices into early adoption of an EMR system, it also initially created new revenue opportunities for IT vendors. These vendors now face a greater challenge because the second stage of Meaningful Use will require providers to actually perform the tasks that they merely needed the capability for in Stage 1. Most vendors assured their clients of their system’s compliance with stage 1, but stage 2 requires much more from these systems than many providers anticipated. Hence, industry experts suggest that doctors should start their stage 2 preparations right away, as they will require help from their staff, patients, hospitals and most importantly their EMR vendors in order to comply with stage 2.
Providers should initiate their practice evaluation process by assessing what they already have and what they need to purchase or upgrade. On one hand, it is encouraging to see the number of practices endorsing electronic documentation rising consistently. However on the other hand, a rush to adopt electronic medical records has led to unwarranted side effects, namely lack of training and poor quality of implementation. The eventual result of such incomplete implementation is that providers are unable to achieve the level of productivity and efficiency which can be expected from the usage of EMR technology, while this can also have a negative impact on the quality of patient care.
Meaningful Use stage 1 is currently under way, while stage 2 starts in January, 2014. Physicians will be required to adopt EHR technology and comply with the meaningful use criteria by October, 2014 or the payments they receive from Medicare will be reduced in 2015. Patient Portals are a major part of the stage 2 requirements and physicians will have to determine whether their current system has the functionality for patients like secure messaging, access to health information, lab results, ability to request prescription refills etc. Stage 2 will also be focusing on the exchange of health information to enhance care coordination along with information security and privacy. Providers will need to determine which regional; state or private health information exchanges will be involved in clinical data sharing.
Providers may have received incentives for stage 1 Meaningful Use compliance, but later stages will require greater commitment than initially anticipated by many. As a conclusion, it is evident that now is the time for action and providers must immediately direct their efforts towards the acquisition, implementation and utilization of an EMR solution, one that will consistently comply with any updates in the Meaningful Use requirements over the next few years.
Read more: 9 Steps to Successful EHR Implementation