The Future of Health I.T

The Health IT industry has been booming over the last few years, especially since the introduction and widespread implementation of Electronic Medical Records (EMR).  In the United States, health IT got a major boost in 2009 when the government introduced the Meaningful Use program through the HITECH Act (Health Information Technology for Economic & Clinical Health).

Enacted under the American Recovery & Re-investments Act of 2009 (ARRA), the HITECH Act is seen as an instrumental legislative achievement by the U.S government and health policy-makers. It is the foundation through which the implementation and execution of Electronic Medical Records EMR all across the nation is deemed possible. It stands as a road through which providers and their patients can communicate regardless of location. There are some who remain skeptical about the government’s backing of health IT, however most view the role of health IT and EMR as the primary step towards in making care more affordable, accessible and ultimately saving lives.

The Meaningful Use program is an initiative through which providers can qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentives. By utilizing approved and certified Systems, eligible providers can earn up to $44,000 for Medicare and $63,750 for Medicaid over a period of five years starting from 2011.

As with any new method, recording medical information electronically may seem challenging for users. It is not easy for physicians to change their existing workflows that they have developed over many years, so the process of implementation and training is the most important step in converting to Electronic Medical Records.

With proper training physicians can avoid any loss of productivity, which is one of their major concerns during the process of conversion. It is also important for them to select customizable systems, that can conform to the existing clinical and administrative workflows. Link to health information exchange networks is another important capability of the system that providers should look for when selecting an EMR.

There is a general consensus within the healthcare community that the communication between all parties involved in the care delivery process is essential to extract the maximum from Electronic Medical Records. MRI scans, lab results, clinical summaries and other information can easily be shared between hospitals, doctors, payers, labs and patients within seconds. This ultimately saves the patient’s time and streamlines the care delivery process with an audit trail being maintained at each juncture.

Patients are not the only beneficiary of the EMR systems (Read more), as providers can also save time by managing their entire practice from anywhere and remain connected with their patients at all times. With the advent of integrated solutions, providers can use the same EMR system to monitor their clinical, administrative and financial performance. The inclusion of innovative tools like the patient portal ensures communication between patients and doctors, while clinical decision support systems help doctors focus more on their patients as the system checks of errors, drug interactions and in some cases even suggest the appropriate codes for billing purposes.

It is clear that not everyone in the care community is realizing the true potential of EMR systems, but recent trends indicate a significant improvement in the overall process of care delivery. The influx of providers adopting this technology suggests that it is only a matter of time before we can see a significant improvement in population health and handling pressing issues like chronic disease management across the nation.

 

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