September 11, 2012
Good news has surfaced in Washington, dealing with the integration of medical electronic health records (EHR), specifically the EHR incentive program. The federal government has instituted a 90 day reporting period for 2014. Meaning, a provider that demonstrated meaningful use in 2011 can attest to Stage 2 criteria beginning in 2014. This extension gives EHR vendors and practices more time to certify under the new certification requirements.
The use of this technology has helped save a tremendous amount of resources and money as medical records and other vital patient data is stored electronically instead of the old ways of physical storage in filing cabinets and filing rooms. This has also saved the amount of time it takes for medical offices and facilities to communicate with one another, including communications of key patient data to insurance agencies.
This leveraged technology was updated by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in late August of 2012. The official report, available here (courtesy of the Department of Health and Human Services), is the final rule in a process that has drawn an extreme amount of focus over the past two years. As electronic health record technology continues to advance, so too do the governing rules and processes that control the integrity of the system.
The United States government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) actually established an original timeline that would have demanded Medicare providers who attested to meaningful use for 2011 to meet and surpass the next stage of meaningful use by 2013. This extra time, taking providers into 2014, provides further opportunity for medical facilities to prove its effectiveness and safe storage and transfer of vital patient information. This also allows medical facilities and practices added time to test the software and compare different offerings by service providers.
Given the amount of federal funding that is available to medical practices, the government has a very close eye on the action. That is, as the government acts to struggle against the rising costs of health care that we are experiencing as a nation, the federal government needs to keep a close focus on the amount of money that is being invested in a practice. The extension of these federal policies helps ensure medical practices are properly leveraging the technology.