EMR & EHRs: Tomorrow Will Be Better

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Mary Stevens, editor, CMIO

With Stage 1 requirements out of the gate and thousands of providers registered for CMS EHR incentive payments, 2011 is already battling 2010 for the title of “The Year of the EHR.” Recognizing that EMR/EHR implementation and adoption are challenging, to say the least, HIMSS11 has a very full slate of EMR/EHR educational sessions that offer something for organizations at every step of the journey away from paper.

The good news is the EHR of the not-too-distant future will likely be more patient-focused, and provide more robust reporting and HIE capabilities. But it will face some of the same obstacles that Stage 1 EHRs face today, HIMSS Director of Healthcare Information Systems David A. Collins, MHA, said in an interview.

“Traditionally, the biggest barrier has been the cost of ownership,” he says. The burden, especially for smaller practices, still represents significant overhead. The CMS incentive program will help, although “it’s kind of like a scholarship where you have to keep your grades up.” The key is convincing physicians that an EHR is better than the alternative—paper and penalties. “[Meaningful use incentives] are not going to cover total expenses, so it’s [critical to make] sure they see the value in this … and it’s going to be a better proposition than if they don’t do it.”

It’s a value proposition that many physicians apparently understand, if the fast pace of registration for meaningful use incentive payments is any indicator. “Given that they didn’t have to [register so soon], that they’ve got two years, basically, to hit this, I think the understanding got across that the earlier you participate, the better off you are, both in terms of the financial incentives and all the way through the program,” said Collins.

What will a Stage 2/3 EHR look like? Proposals for later stage objectives and measures are just emerging. Although the jury is still out, Collins said, “the requirements are going to be a lot more stringent. There’s going to be a lot more clinical quality measures that need to be captured, and the reporting process is going to be a lot tougher. That expectation was laid out early on, and they’re holding to that.

The biggest thing that Stage 2 and 3 EHRs will have that’s absent in Stage 1 is a robust ability to participate in HIE. “That’s the golden apple for the healthcare industry overall,” said Collins. “The better these systems can communicate with each other and to the external environment, the more valuable and useful the EHR is going to be.”

EHRs will continue to evolve to be more patient-centric EHRs, allowing patients to better understand information that’s collected, and enabling providers to use it to coach patients for better outcomes.

In addition, “Usability is going [to] take more precedence,” he said. Usability as in, how intuitive a system is, how many clicks does it take to get to the screen you need, what information is readily available and actionable, especially through widespread application of clinical decision support.

HIMSS11 will highlight the present and future in the EHR Best Practices sessions Tuesday, Feb. 22. The rest of the EMR/EHR slate—60 educational sessions, plus expert speakers throughout the show—is certain to provide visitors with ample tools to get started, stay on track or get from EMR/EHR implementation to adoption and beyond. Watch for CMIO.net’s daily coverage of all things EMR/EHR from HIMSS11 later this month.

Mary Stevens
Editor of CMIO