The best definition of what EHR Technology is has been published by The Department of Health and Human Services. The content has been copied below along with our comments in bold; the link to the original content can be found here:
Electronic health records can provide many benefits for providers and their patients:
- Complete and accurate information. With electronic health records, providers have the information they need to provide the best possible care. Providers will know more about their patients and their health history before they walk into the examination room. The data that is collected, analyzed and reported with an EHR can also give providers better access to meaningful information about their medical practice, hence the term Meaningful Use.
- Better access to information. Electronic health records facilitate greater access to the information providers need to diagnose health problems earlier and improve the health outcomes of their patients. Electronic health records also allow information to be shared more easily among doctors’ offices, hospitals, and across health systems, leading to better coordination of care. Sharing of data between providers is becoming a more realistic goal, although as a whole, the percentage of physicians that can share data electronically is woefully low. However, this will change soon as health information exchange technology is rapidly improving. The landscape of healthcare is undergoing rapid transformations with technology on the forefront of the changes. The decision to use technology in the healthcare industry has become an easier one. Technology can be used in order to improve patient outcomes, which has transformative power as well as persuasive implications for the future of healthcare in our country.
- Patient empowerment. Electronic health records will help empower patients to take a more active role in their health and in the health of their families. Patients can receive electronic copies of their medical records and share their health information securely over the Internet with their families. With the adoption of patient portals and other technologies, the healthcare industry is also undergoing a transformation towards a more patient centric model. The implications for this shift are huge, causing more patient accountability as patients are increasingly finding and using new tools for decision making about their own healthcare.
Currently, most health care providers still use medical record systems based on paper. New government incentives and programs are helping health care providers across the country make the switch to electronic health records.
Why Electronic Health Records?
Electronic health records can improve care by enabling functions that paper medical records cannot deliver:
- EHRs can make a patient’s health information available when and where it is needed – too often care has to wait because the chart is in one place and needed in another. EHRs enable clinicians secure access to information needed to support high quality and efficient care.
- EHRs can bring a patient’s total health information together to support better health care decisions, and more coordinated care.
- EHRs can support better follow-up information for patients – for example, after a clinical visit or hospital stay, instructions and information for the patient can be effortlessly provided and reminders for other follow-up care can be sent easily or even automatically to the patient.
- EHRs can improve patient and provider convenience – patients can have their prescriptions ordered and ready even before they leave the provider’s office, and insurance claims can be filed immediately from the provider’s office.
EHR Background: Legislation and Regulations
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act provides HHS with the authority to establish programs to improve health care quality, safety, and efficiency through the promotion of health information technology (HIT), including electronic health records and private and secure electronic health information exchange.
Under HITECH, eligible health care professionals and hospitals can qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments when they adopt certified EHR technology and use it to achieve specified objectives.
Two regulations have been released, one of which defines the “meaningful use” objectives that providers must meet to qualify for the bonus payments, and the other which identifies the technical capabilities required for certified EHR technology.
- Incentive Program for Electronic Health Records: Issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), this final rule defines the minimum requirements that providers must meet through their use of certified EHR technology in order to qualify for the payments.
- Standards and Certification Criteria for Electronic Health Records: Issued by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, this rule identifies the standards and certification criteria for the certification of EHR technology, so eligible professionals and hospitals may be assured that the systems they adopt are capable of performing the required functions.