Hospitals and physicians in the U.S. have until 2015 to deploy comprehensive electronic health records (EHR) and the accompanying technology to meet federal guidelines and qualify for billions of dollars in reimbursements. But some health care experts are concerned that the quality of e-health systems might be at risk because of unrealistic deadlines and confusion about what to do first.
"I think we have nontechnology people making decisions about technology," said Gregg Veltri, CIO at Denver Health, a health care group that serves some of Denver's poorest residents. "The issue is the timelines. I wonder if anybody understands the reality of IT systems and how complex they are, especially when they're integrated together. You're going to sacrifice quality if you increase the speed [of the rollout]."...Last year, just 10% of health care facilities in the U.S. used EHRs; by 2014, the government wants more than half of all facilities to use them. To spur the initiative, it's offering money -- a lot of it. Physicians who implement EHR systems can get as much as $44,000 to help defray technology costs; a typical 275-bed hospital would be eligible for approximately $6 million. But clinicians and health care facilities must show they're using EHRs in a meaningful way beginning in the government's 2011 fiscal year to qualify for a full incentive payment. Hospitals that do not meet federal guidelines by 2015 face Medicare reimbursement cuts.
...Although the rules are being developed in phases, industry experts and even government officials are concerned that the rush to deploy EHRs could lead to administrative complications, formatting problems, errors and interoperability glitches.
...Dr. Reid Conant, chief medical information officer at Tri-City Emergency Medical Group in Oceanside, Calif., believes the meaningful use rules will improve health care quality and streamline workflow. But he's concerned hospitals will struggle to meet the criteria...
While vendors may achieve meaningful use certification for their software and systems, hospitals still have to roll those systems out in a way that meets government standards.
"For example, if you implement an application but you don't design it to meet the five rules for clinical physician support, the hospital won't meet the [government] measure," Conant said. "A lot of this will come down to customization of these applications."
And on, and on. Lots more at the link, and that's only Part One of a two-parter.