Despite Stimulus Dollars, Hundreds Of Hospitals Still Use Mostly Paper Records

Mar 29 2014, 7:32pm CDT | by

About six percent of U.S. hospitals have yet to convert even the most basic ancillary services of laboratory, pharmacy and radiology to electronic medical record systems despite billions of dollars in funds available to these facilities, health information executives said at the Association of Health Care Journalists annual meeting.

An executive from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society told journalists meeting this weekend in Denver that about 6 percent of more than 5,400 hospitals in the health information trade group’s HIMSS analytics database still aren’t at the first stage of the group’s 7-stage “electronic medical record adoption model.” The latest report on the model is linked here.

“We’re finding that those (providers) not maturing tend to be smaller organizations,” John Daniels, vice president of strategic relations for the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, a Chicago-based trade association that tracks electronic medical record adoption in the U.S. said today during a panel discussion at the journalists’ meeting.

The update comes as millions of Americans are signing up for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act and policymakers and insurance companies are looking to the health care industry for more cost-effective ways to provide medical care and many observers see the adoption of electronic health records as critical.

In 2009, President Obama signed into law the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, as part of the so-called “federal stimulus” legislation known as the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. The law provides some $20 billion to get medical care providers to use electronic medical records.

Medical care providers also face penalties next year under the law from the federal government in the form of lower Medicare payments if they are not satisfying certain criteria that show they are using electronic medical records in a meaningful way. Some of the first criteria hospitals have to meet include things like eliminating handwritten orders and providing patients electronic copies of their medical records when they leave the facility.

Yet despite the money, smaller, largely rural hospitals are in the same boat as the rest of the hospital industry in that they are “squeezed” by government an private insurers who pay them, said Mary Anne Leach, chief information officer at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Leach, Daniels and Dr. Christopher Alban, clinical information specialist at Epic Systems Corp., a larger vendor of electronic health records for hospitals and doctors, were part of a panel speaking on electronic health records.

The panelists said rural hospitals are already struggling to make an operating profit and the cost of such systems is a challenge even with the stimulus dollars.

Still, the panelists said the threat of penalties and loss of revenue from Medicare has triggered more facilities to enter the digital age.

About 37 percent of hospitals are in the final three stages of adoption and the precentage is quickly rising. From the third quarter of 2013 to the fourth quarter of 2014 alone, the percentage of hospitals at the final three stages of adoption rose across the board, according to HIMSS Analytics. Nearly three percent of hospitals are in the HIMSS final stage and no longer use paper charts to deliver and manage patient care.

At that final stage, “it’s virtually a paperless environment,” Daniels said. “It’s pretty much a fully-baked EMR capability.”

Source: Forbes Business


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