Great news: overall, electronic health records (EHR) have surpassed the goals for 2013. More than 50 percent of all providers and more than 80 percent of hospitals now use EHR. In total, that means over 291,000 providers in more than 3,800 hospitals got their incentive payments from the federal governments—and that more people will probably soon be jumping on board.
HHS Speaks Up
According to the Health and Human Services (HHS), this is a win-win situation for everyone involved. Secretary Kathleen Sebelius formally announced that EHR surpassed its goal, and that those who are on board haven’t just obliged but are making “meaningful use” of the technology. This is impressive, considering just five years ago electronic health records weren’t even in the picture.
In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) conducted a survey and it was revealed that only 17 percent of physicians used an advanced EHR system. Only nine percent of hospitals did so—and even then, the technology used wasn’t top notch. Sebelius said, “We have reached a tipping point in adoption of electronic health records. Health IT helps providers better coordinate care, which can improve patients’ health and save money at the same time.”
What This Really Means
EHRs were a cornerstone of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and he was the driving force behind the incentives to get everyone on the same (digital) page. However, this wasn’t meant to be an awards system; it was simply a way to help offset the costs that are involved with going electronic. While EHR will save money in the long run, it’s of course costly to get started—and extra funds are what no hospital has on hand.
The Affordable Care Act goals and EHR goals are very similar—it’s all about improving coordination, reducing double work and providing incentives for healthcare systems to keep patients healthy. Just like in any other industry, human error can come in to play, and that remains true when it comes to the administrative side of things.
Human error in paperwork, records and billing can waste a lot of money and time that clinics and hospitals simply don’t have. By streamlining processes, everyone can get things taken care of faster—whether that means sharing patient information between clinics when necessary or by speeding up the process when a patient needs to their own records. It’s too early to say what the real changes have been from EHR, but one thing is certain: Hospitals are going into 2014 with a generous side of technology at their fingertips.
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