Will Every American Soon Have an Electronic Health Record?
Health information technology has been a priority for the past two presidents, with both George Bush and Barack Obama setting 2014 as the goal year by which all Americans should have electronic medical records. Medical software companies have developed a variety of options for hospitals and private practices of all sizes, and the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Care Record (EHR) Incentive Programs, which were created to provide funds for implementing and upgrading electronic record systems for eligible hospitals and practices, have further spurred adoption.
Missed Goals Amid Gains
But as 2014 is rapidly drawing to a close, have the ambitious goals set by Bush (in 2004) and Obama (in 2009) been met? Not quite, Nextgov reported as of Oct. 9. About 75% of eligible clinicians and 91% of hospitals who treat under Medicare and Medicaid have implemented EHR systems, according to Jodi Daniel, director of the Office of Policy in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
However, these percentages may not indicate how close America is to realizing the vision of universal electronic health records. There is no way to determine what percentage of the patients who are treated by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services providers actually have EMRs. CMS provides care for about a third of the U.S. population, but those numbers are further complicated by the fact that those same providers also treat non-CMS patients. This led Daniel to estimate that “a significantly larger number” of Americans have EHRs than can be demonstrated through CMS metrics.
There’s also no way for Daniel’s office to estimate how many non-CMS providers have implemented EHR systems outside the purview of the incentive programs.
Reasons to Participate
If your practice has been looking at medical software companies in anticipation of implementing an EHR system, there are several reasons to make the change from hard-copy records as quickly as possible:
- Reduced Possibility of Misunderstanding: Jokes about doctors’ handwriting aside, it’s far easier to miss a hand-scrawled note than an electronic one.
- File Protection: Electronic records are far less vulnerable to destruction than physical ones.
- Increased Efficiency: It’s been shown that EMR systems lead to a 6% annual increase in efficiency.
EMRs are becoming more common among office-based physicians, with adoption rising 21% between 2012 and 2013 (the most recent data available). It’s becoming clear that EMR software is the inevitable path for the future, so it’s worth embracing the change — choosing the right system for your practice in order to ease the transition — for the sake of medical staff and patients alike.
Do you use electronic health records in your practice? If your practice is looking to purchase or replace your current EHR system, contact Benchmark Medical to demo our Five Star Rated EHR solution today!