CMS and ONC tout success of HIT systems in improving healthcare

While there have been plenty of supporters of federal healthcare reform, there are numerous detractors who have expressed fears that too much government oversight and intervention could hinder efficient medical practices. This debate has been particularly fierce surrounding the issue of health information technology integration, which has been largely fueled by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Critics have argued that devices such as electronic health records are too costly and inefficient to be adopted widely among the nation's doctors.

However, recent data from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology suggest that not only have HIT systems been effective, but they have been hugely successful in keeping down costs and improving the quality of medical care. This information suggests that EHRs will continue to be a driving force of federal healthcare reform policies.

CMS celebrates EHRs as transforming healthcare
Healthcare IT News reported that the CMS has been touting the strengths of EHR systems in revolutionizing American healthcare. Beyond improving the way doctors and clinical staff members look at diagnostics, billing and managing care, this technology is also changing the way doctors interact with patients and insurance companies.

"Electronic health records are transforming relationships between patients and their healthcare providers," CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner said in an official statement. "EHRs improve care coordination, reduce duplicative tests and procedures, help patients take more control of their health and result in better overall health outcomes."

About 80 percent of all healthcare organizations in the U.S. have already implemented basic EHR services in their operations. Additionally, 50 percent of eligible professionals have been reimbursed for their EHR purchases and staff training as part of the CMS' meaningful use incentive program.

In fact, since the meaningful use program began back in 2011, EHRs have been used to share 4.3 million care summaries between care providers, 40 million drug interaction reports, 4.6 million digital health records and 190 million electronic prescription requests, according to the source.

ONC taking HIT to the next level
While there has certainly been promising results coming from widespread EHR adoption, there still remains plenty of work to be done with expanding the scope and effectiveness of HIT systems. According to NPR, Farzad Mostashari recently spoke on the need for continued guidance and support from the federal government to spur continued development of EHRs and other emerging technologies.

"The key thing is that you can't just plop in technology," Mostashari told the news source. "You've got to really work with the people and the processes. You've got to work with the training, and you've got to look at the workflows that you're doing and not just repeat the same processes – broken processes that you were doing before. "Paper works just fine, if you want to deliver healthcare the way you sell shoes. … [I]f you want to share information with the patient and engage them as partners in their own care, paper doesn't work just fine."

Mostashari also noted that results take time and encouragement to come about with new HIT systems. With technologies like mobile health applications and clinical image archiving devices emerging in the healthcare marketplace, the federal government needs to be present to smooth the adoption and implementation process for doctors, clinical staff members, insurance companies and patients. Without this key level of government oversight and protection, HIT such as EHRs would not be nearly as successful as they have been thus far.

Despite this, Mostashari also admitted that there will likely be issues with human error related to using EHR systems and other forms of HIT. It is for these reasons that he feels so strongly about efforts like the CMS' meaningful use incentive program and expansion of Medicare and Medicaid to support cost-reducing operations.