Health care providers continue to adopt electronic health record (EHR) and electronic medical record (EMR) technology despite concerns from EMR design specialists that the current systems slow workflow and create safety concerns for patients at the facilities that have adopted new technology.
Providers are motivated to switch to EMRs due to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services’ (CMS) meaningful use incentives, according to a report from the Institute for Health Technology Transformation (iHT2). However, these incentives can only be achieved if the provider’s EMR systems are certified but no uniform certification system currently exists. The release of stage 2 meaningful use rules has established that providers must meet meaningful use’s regulations for a three-month period to qualify for incentive payments. This regulation may increase EMR usability, after research from the National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST) concluded that it needed to improve in order to push providers to convert their records to electronic forms.
Adoption of EHR systems has been challenging for providers for other reasons as well. Two recent surveys, one released by the National Center for Health Statistics and the other by Physicians Practice, both revealed the EHR adoption rate is roughly 50%. Three-quarters of adopters agreed that their EHR systems improved patient care. According to those results, the majority of providers are pleased with their choice to convert to EHRs. But getting them to convert in the first place can be a struggle.
Converting to EHR use and benefitting from meaningful use incentives can be facilitated if a provider researches the best EHR option for their practice. Some EHR systems can affect a practice’s workflow as they adjust to the new ways of treating and documenting patient care. The effect on workflow can be softened by selecting the EHR option that best serves a health care facility, whether it is a general practice or a more specialized care location. A study released by the Journal of Risk Management and Healthcare Policy in 2011 documented a 20% decrease in productivity during the first month after a practice adopts a new EHR system, with productivity returning to normal by the fourth month after adoption. So, with a little research before selecting an EHR system and patience after adoption, health care facilities can benefit from meaningful use incentives and help support the growing trend of digitalization of health care data.