Health information technology used by more doctors and hospitals

Health information

More doctors and hospitals than ever before are using electronic health records (EHR), according to two studies published recently by the Human Health Services (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. In 2013, about 78% of doctors’ offices reported implementing an EHR system, while 48% of physicians and 59% of hospitals had an EHR system with advanced functionalities, doubling and quadrupling the rates for 2009 and 2010, respectively. “Patients are seeing the benefits of health IT as a result of the significant strides that have been made in the adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records,” national coordinator for health information technology Karen DeSalvo, M.D., M.P.H. said. “We look forward to working with our partners to ensure that people’s digital health information follows them across the care continuum so it will be there when it matters most.”

The data in the studies, published in the journal Health Affairs, was compiled in 2013 by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics and the American Hospital Association. The information offered an early assessment of how ready healthcare professionals are to accomplish Stage 2 Meaningful Use of the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive programs. According to the statement released by the HHS press office, “Stage 2 will begin later this year for providers who first attested to Stage 1 Meaningful Use in 2011 or 2012.” Approximately 75% of eligible practitioners and over 91% of hospitals have implemented or proven Stage 1 Meaningful Use of certified electronic health records.

In spite of the increasing use of health information technology, the research found that most adopted systems were self-contained even though they didn’t have to be. That is, there was not much interconnectedness between healthcare professionals. In 2013, only 39% of physicians reported electronically exchanging data with colleagues, and even fewer (14%) shared information with ambulatory care providers or hospitals outside their organization. The same could be said of hospital-patient information exchange. Only 10% of hospitals provided patients with “online access to view, download, and transmit information about their hospital admission.” Moreover, most hospitals “had capabilities that could be used to support many Meaningful Use Stage 2 objectives but were not being used.”

In order to help providers accomplish Meaningful Use Stage 2 and foment “an interoperable health system that enables nationwide health information exchange,” the HHS has enforced a series of measures during the course of 2014, including helping over 150,000 providers to use their EHRs to comply with Stage 2 protocols, sharing tools and resources to help providers engage patients with health IT tools and meet the “view, download, and transmit measure,” and making webinars, user guides, tip sheets, listserv subscriptions and other educational resources available through the CMS eHealth University.

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