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AMIA task force recommends simplifying documentation, refocusing EHR regulation

Now that EHRs have been cemented as technology that isn’t going away any time soon, healthcare providers are looking for ways to set their EHR systems up for optimum performance and future stability.

In response, the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) assembled the EHR 2020 Task Force. The mission of the AMIA task force is to research EHRs and make recommendations to the AMIA board on how electronic records can maximize the safety and efficiency of patient care — information that can serve as advice for providers installing or recalibrating EHR systems.

The near-term recommendations of AMIA’s EHR task force were published in the group’s Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. The report takes on “issues of greatest concern to those using EHRs today and on directions for the next five years.” The five main areas addressed in the task force’s report are:

  • Simplify and speed documentation — Healthcare systems must pass the data entry responsibilities of clinicians to other team members, according to the AMIA task force. Also, data entry — something that can be done by patients or providers — should be separate from data reporting. Finally, the task force believes the healthcare industry should measure the costs and benefits of distinct methods of capturing clinical data in EHRs.
  • Refocus regulation — The task force asserts that regulation of EHRs should start with clarifying and simplifying meaningful use criteria, improving interoperability and data exchange and focusing on patient outcomes. The task force also wants reimbursement policies to change so providers no longer have to fight the “natural tension between using EHR systems to guide and document care, and to provide adequate documentation to ensure appropriate reimbursement.”
  • Increase transparency and streamline certification — EHR vendors should be transparent and thorough in providing information about how their products meet certification criteria. In addition, vendors and healthcare providers should share information about patient safety risks associated with installing new health IT system into a healthcare facility.
  • Foster innovation — EHR vendors should use public standards-based APIs that will leave EHRs open to innovation from those outside the health informatics community.
  • EHRs in 2020 must support person-centered care delivery — The task force believes every care setting should include EHRs by 2020, from specialist care to home health. It also supports the thought that EHRs be customized to fit the level of expertise of the user.

Doug Fridsma, M.D., the AMIA’s president and CEO and former ONC chief scientist, wrote a blog on the AMIA task force’s report. He called healthcare a “team sport,” and made note of a number of areas in which cooperation is needed to advance the use of EHRs. About the “refocus regulation” recommendations, Fridsma wrote that patients and caregivers need to work together to see where more regulation may be needed and where it should be lessened. Increasing transparency will take the combined efforts of researchers and providers. Researchers analyzing EHRs should make this information available to providers shopping for an EHR, and EHR users should document any patient safety issues that occur when using their system.