Moving on to Stage 2

Speaking to doctors who are beginning the process of transitioning to a new electronic health record system, one of the most common assurances is “yes, I know this seems like a lot of work now, but the next time you see this patient, you will have much less to do.” The idea is that the provider will no longer have to keep track of patient meds, histories, problems, but rather just confirm and update new ones on each visit. Unfortunately, even experienced computer uses still have to go through these steps for each patient upon switching to a new system.

This past summer, the next round of targets for meaningful use, stage 2, was finalized. While part of the next phase of meaningful use increases the levels at which providers need to meet most of their level 1 goals, the real targets of stage 2 are moving the system towards embracing new ways providers of all types can use EHR’s to improve patient care.  Current electronic records can do a more than sufficient up job of as an electronic simulation of the old doctor’s chart, but obviously health care, as many other industries, can do so much more to better utilize advanced technology. Instead, certified EHR systems are meant to be interoperable, so that physicians can share information about between two offices or hospitals without needing to either print or fax something or translate it between two different systems. By the end of the eligible period in 2014, providers and hospitals are expected to begin testing their ability to exchange information between one another.

The reason for the interoperability goals is that one of the major goals of increased EHR usage is cost control. As healthcare costs skyrocket, new methods are being investigated to limit them. Without being able to know exactly what treatments, tests, and conditions are part of a patients past history, the provider must either rely on the patients memory, or repeat anything seen as necessary to ensure both proper treatment and reduce their own liability. Having healthcare information being exchangeable ideally will enable this information to be available to the provider prior to any patient visit.

This leads to non-profit, state based organizations called “Health Information Exchanges.” HIE’s serve to assist hospitals, doctors offices and other healthcare organizations begin working towards meeting these interoperability goals. In addition to furthering the stated goals of making all healthcare data interchangeable and portable, HIE allows governments and public health officials to track quality measures and furthers research ability on healthcare spending and practice.

More in depth reading:

HHS Final Rule for Meaningful Use Stage 2

Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services: Meaningful Use

Health Information Exchange


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