EHR optimization is key following stage 3 MU release

EHR optimization is key as stage 3 MU approaches

Providers across the health care industry have started working toward following the soon-to-be released stage 3 meaningful use final rule. To successfully meet the new standards, health professionals have begun to put more money toward advanced health IT.

The stage 3 rule requires optimized electronic health records that can capture, organize and analyze patient data to improve care quality. EHR replacement rates have increased as it becomes increasingly clear that high-quality EHRs are key to making this progress.

EHRs prove essential to meeting industry's goals
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' goal for widespread EHR adoption has been reached, with more than 70 percent of eligible physicians and 95 percent of eligible hospitals not only investing in EHRs, but succeeding at using their systems to receive incentive payments. The University of Illinois at Chicago explained that health care providers in the U.S. are expected to spend an estimated $6.05 billion on EHR systems by the end of 2015. However, the stage 3 MU final rule reflects the fact that the CMS knows there is still more to be achieved, including better interoperability and data sharing between providers in various care settings. 

One of the standards included in the stage 3 rule requires health professionals to connect their EHRs to patients to make health information available to them at home and electronic copies of their health data more accessible. As a result, many providers are investing in EHRs that feature mobile access to health data for patients. The rule also maintains that providers must connect their systems to exchange information with public health organizations. 

EHRs have proven to be effective tools to reach the industry's goals of interoperability and data exchange. They are also effective systems for enhancing care outcomes among patients. This is largely in part because of their availability to providers.

"While many opportunities exist in healthcare to improve clinical and financial outcomes, EHR optimization may present itself as the 'low hanging fruit' since the data and systems are readily available and can translate to immediate improvements," Johnathon Cho of health care consulting firm Freed Associates told TechTarget.

Providers look for advanced EHRs
Whether providers are looking for their first EHR, or they are updating their current system, many have their eyes on products that go above and beyond the standard EHR. What does this mean? To adhere to the stage 3 rule and improve interoperability and patient care, they want more than a system that improves data entry processes to comply with government regulations.

Judy Hanover, research director at IDC Health Insights in Framingham, Massachusetts, explained to TechTarget that providers now want to invest in EHRs that work with mobile technology, patient portals, cloud computing platforms and other features that fully unleash the potential of health IT. 

Hanover noted that the future of health IT spending will be impacted by the effort that providers put into assessing the value of EHR investments made in the past. This will lead to realizations that will restructure the way in which providers choose their EHR systems.

"There'll be enhancements and replacement to the core systems that have been implemented because of meaningful use requirements," Hanover said. "We are going to see more and more department- and role-specific technology that operates on the same platform. There'll be a lot of innovation once you get past the regulatory requirements." 

As the industry begins to expect more than the standard data-entry tools in their EHRs, vendors offering advanced features like mobile capabilities are expected to see a rise in sales. EHR vendors that provide these high-quality systems are not only helping providers adhere to government standards, but they are pushing the industry toward a future of enhanced interoperability and patient care.