Meaningful Use of EMR and EHR Systems

Granted, this century has seen its share of rapid growth in the technology sector.  This is a generation that will continue to make significant advancements in technology.  It is difficult to imagine any kind of industry without information technology integrated.  With more and more advanced technologies becoming available to the consumer market, medical technology is keeping pace with the bandwagon.  The previously incurable diseases are now curable thanks to progress in technology.  With all the outstanding improvements in the medical field, there is one thing that seems to be at a standstill for the last 50 years; the methods in which medical records are made and organized.   Electronic medical records (EMR) and electronic health records (EHR) systems are no stranger to the scene, but its implementation and integration on a national scale is somewhat lagging.

The ideal EMR contains the medical data of a patient, but migrating what use to be on paper is no straightforward task.  Handwritten notes and input are not always legible, and it is difficult to transfer handwritten data to an EMR system. Statistics show that in a decade or so, when all patients have had their records input through electronic media, migration would not be an issue.  There are many concerns and issue with electronic medical record migration, such as privacy.  EMRs and EHRs can be straightforwardly accessed from different locations with a capable internet or network connection.  The ideal meaningful users of such systems are doctors, nurses, data entry employees, IT management, and other medical specialists.  The general belief is that the Internet is already plagued with hackers and viruses that medical records would be just as susceptible to attacks.

A few specialists believe that EMR and EHR systems constitute a much greater risk to confidentiality than what the security of paper-based document management can provide.  They also point out that medical records and documents can take up a sizeable deal of memory space; thus EMR and EHR systems would be limited to the confines of their memory capacity.  Though the risks are a cause for concern, there are much more advantages to using an EMR and EHR on a national scale.  In order to create an EHR system network on a national scale, the hospitals and clinics involved with EHR would need to incorporate an EMR system prior or around the same time.

Those whom demonstrate meaningful use of EMR/EHR systems can be eligible for incentive programs from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.  In case you do not know, a meaningful user is different from meaningful use of EMR/EHR systems.  A meaningful user is someone who uses the system for input, update, maintenance, and research.   To qualify for EHR incentives and certification, a clinic or hospital must demonstrate meaningful use of EHRs.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed in 2009, sanctions Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in providing incentives to eligible medical professionals and hospital facilities that adopt, integrate, upgrade, and demonstrate the practical use of EHR systems.  The meaningful use criteria are met when professional uses certified EHR/EMR systems to:

  • enhance the quality, efficiency, and safety of medical procedures by reducing health disparities
  • improve engagement of patients and their families
  • enhance general public health and care coordination
  • enforce security measures addressing privacy concerns of patient information

The standards set in meaningful use and compliance are hoped to result in:

  • improved clinical outcomes
  • improved results in health population
  • transparency and efficiency
  • accessibility
  • robust foundation for research data and health network systems

If medical professionals complete and meet the meaningful use criteria, they meet the requirements for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Incentive Programs.  Eligible medical professionals can obtain certification that shows the EHR/EMR system meets the requirements in terms of technological capabilities, functionalities, and security.  In order to qualify for incentive payouts, medical professionals must use certified EHR technology.

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