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Part 2: New certified EHR standards drive industry toward coordination

The 2014 Edition Standards and Certification Criteria place an emphasis on care coordination that could drive the direction of health care for years.

Care coordination plays a large role in the 2014 Edition Standards and Certification Criteria, and vendors are hard-pressed to update their systems in time to meet federal mandates. That said, providers will look eagerly toward using technology that is more interoperable for data reporting and ensuring quality metrics.

Driving toward standardization for more accountable care

The care coordination standards for certified EHRs could have the effect of putting providers on level technical footing, making it easier for health care organizations to report data in standardized formats. Bill Spooner, CIO of Sharp Healthcare of San Diego, said this could be the longest lasting impact of the certification rules.

The more [measures] become consistent, the more it's going to allow health care services to be evaluated objectively, and I think that has to be good.
Bill SpoonerIO of Sharp Healthcare

"The more [measures] become consistent, the more it's going to allow health care services to be evaluated objectively, and I think that has to be good," he said. "That's no different than the Consumer Report on that drill I want to buy or that car I want to buy."

Performance measures are widely considered to be critical to the success of ACOs. They allow providers to understand what is working and what isn't, which helps them deliver higher quality, more efficient care. 

The health care industry is increasingly moving toward more coordinated, accountable care, and the standards for certified EHRs aren't necessarily going to be the major driving force behind the trend. But Eric Leader, director of product management and business intelligence at Harris Healthcare, said he sees the standards as helping direct its progression. Most health care organizations no longer see accountable care as just an option; they are making plans to adopt it in the near future.

What the certification rules do, according to Leader, is ensure that providers have the IT tools necessary to adopt accountable care in an efficient, effective manner.

"It's moved from something that these organizations see as a differentiator to being just a required need to move toward value-based payment programs," he said.

Certified EHR standards are just the beginning

While the standards may help push certified EHR systems, and with them much of the health care industry, toward supporting more coordinated care, many think that the standards are merely a starting point. Both Spooner and Leader said they think health care providers should look for EHR systems that offer functionality above and beyond the certification standards, and vendors should work to offer customers more advanced systems.

Understanding EHRs

Resource: Meaningful use of EHRs

Chart: Final stage 2 meaningful use criteria

Join the EHR certification discussion on the Health IT Exchange

Amit Trivedi, healthcare program manager at ICSA Labs, said this is how providers will offer the best quality care and vendors will stand out in the crowded IT market. He said the certification standards set a minimum bar, but that health care organizations need to "compete above the bar."

"Yes, everyone has to have medication lists or family health history. Everyone does it, but how you do it is how you're going to differentiate your product," Trivedi said. "If you buy a car or get into an airplane, you want to know that it works to a certain degree. There are better planes and better cars, but you know that anything that gets out there meets a certain requirement."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Ed Burns, News Writer or contact @EdBurnsTT on Twitter.

Next Steps

[Video] Learn about a care coordination platform with an operating system approach

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