Massachusetts makes hospital EHRs mandatory

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Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick signs new healthcare bill, mandating EHRs. Source:  

Massachusetts has enacted healthcare legislation requiring hospitals and community health centers to implement interoperable EHRs systems by Oct. 1, 2015, as a condition of their state license. The legislation also is intended to strengthen the state's primary care infrastructure by addressing primary care work force shortages.

Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick signed S.B. 2863 into law on Aug. 10, which gives the state the authority to establish a medical home demonstration project and creates a loan forgiveness program for physicians and nurses, who agree to practice primary care in medically underserved areas.

The bill authorizes $25 million for the new Massachusetts e-Health Institute to facilitate the financing and deployment of a statewide, compatible system of EHRs. The institute, which is part of the state's technology collaborative, will award grants to physician practices to help facilitate the adoption of EHRs.

As part of the new law, hospitals and community health centers also must implement computerized physician order entry (CPOE) systems by Oct. 1, 2012. The state will develop regulations to define what the EHRs and CPOE systems will be. Under the law, the systems must be certified under criteria of the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT) or a successor organization.

The enactment of S.B. 2863 represents the second time in the past 18 months that Massachusetts legislature has passed a comprehensive healthcare bill. In April 2006, Massachusetts became the first state in the country to enact a law requiring all residents to carry health insurance.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the Massachusetts Health Care Reform Plan dramatically reduced the number of uninsured residents in the state, cutting the uninsured rate to about 5 percent by bringing more than 300,000 previously uninsured people into the healthcare system.