One of the big pushes in health care reform has been an effort to introduce electronic health records (EHR) into hospitals and medical offices across the country. There are a lot of obvious benefits to doing so: enhanced communication between medical providers, faster transmittal of claims to health insurance carriers, complete medical records available to a treating physician on the spot, regardless of where the patient was previously treated… and the list goes on.
But like any big project, nobody said this will be an easy transition. The government has created an incentive program to help providers with the financial aspect of transitioning from paper records to EHR, but of course there are hoops to jump through. It’s not as simple as just setting up the first EHR system you come across and then getting money from the government to help pay for it. In order to qualify for the incentive program, EHR systems must meet meaningful use criteria as laid out by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services last year.
In this week’s Grand Rounds, an article from ACP Internist gets into the nitty gritty of EHR certification, including an analysis of the two types of certification, pros and cons of each, and what requirements have to be met in order for an EHR system to qualify for government incentives. Although I’ve long been in favor of the idea of transitioning medical information to electronic records, I can see how the process of doing so will not be a simple one. We live in a country that highly values the private sector and market competition, so it makes sense that lots of vendors are competing for business in the newly-created EHR market. But the array of options available to medical offices might actually make the implementation process more cumbersome and complicated, to say nothing of the confusion around whether or not each particular system will meet the meaningful use requirements necessary for financial assistance from the government.