EHR adoption increases as industry aims to improve care quality and patient safety

According to a report from peer60, the health care industry is likely to spend billions on electronic health records and other health IT devices over the coming year. With several changes to the industry on their way, including stage 3 meaningful use requirements and the implementation of the ICD-10 coding system on Oct. 1, the majority of providers are hoping to make transitions easier with updated and advanced technology.  

What are hospitals focusing on in 2015?
The primary focus for most providers and hospitals for the next few months will be on successfully transitioning from ICD-9 to ICD-10. In fact, the recent report from peer60 showed that of the 960 surveyed, a total of 60 percent of hospital leaders will be making preparations for ICD-10 implementation their top priority. To aid them in doing so, the participants in the poll reported that they would be purchasing revenue cycle and population health management systems, ICD-10 migration systems and EHRs.

Although hospitals of all sizes said that they would be investing in new health IT systems, the researchers believe that it is more likely the larger facilities will make these purchases this year because they have more money to spend. However, when looking at EHRs specifically, the smaller organizations proved to be more likely to spend resources on an EHR system than larger hospitals. This is probably because the bigger facilities already have up-to-date EHRs implemented and are focusing more on additional health IT to provide analytics and coordinate care. 

Why are so many hospitals updating their health IT?
A total of 27 percent of the hospitals in the report said that they plan on replacing an out-of-date EHR system with a new one that can comply with stage 2 meaningful use and ICD-10 coding in their ambulatory care setting. Another 31 percent claimed they were not sure whether they would stay with their current EHR vendor because they want to find one with more support and expertise. 

The importance of a high-quality EHR vendor is crucial during a time when major changes lie on the horizon. Vendors who offer their clients technical assistance and software support are likely to be the popular choices among hospitals and providers who realize that these features are key to a smooth transition. 

Many hospitals reported looking for more advanced EHRs and other health IT systems to help them achieve enhanced patient engagement, as stage 2 meaningful use calls for it through the use of patient portals. Almost half of the hospitals reported that they will be addressing patient engagement this year and, because EHRs are a popular strategy to this, it is expected that many organizations will rely on them for this task.

Both large and small facilities are also aiming to enhance patient and physician relationships, which would include opening up more face-to-face time during appointments. Products that work at reducing the amount of time doctors have to spend inputting data and finding information during patient visits are being considered by many hospitals.

Although specific factors like meaningful use compliance and patient engagement are goals for nearly all of the hospitals adopting health IT in 2015, the main point of investing in new technology is to move the health care industry in the right direction where patient safety and care quality are drastically improved. 

The increase of EHR adoption: Improving patient safety and engagement
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a survey recently that showed the jump in EHR adoption from 2006 to 2011. In 2011, 84 percent of emergency departments in hospitals and 76 percent of outpatient departments had begun using an EHR system. Since the survey, these figures are likely to have climbed even higher. 

According to EHR Intelligence, the spike in the adoption of EHR technology was likely due to the HITECH Act of 2009, which offered professionals and hospitals monetary incentives to adopt health IT systems. Once the initial increase began after the act was implemented, the success that organizations using EHRs saw, including more face-to-face time with patients and enhanced office workflow, caused the adoption rate of EHRs to continue to soar. For example, tasks like writing prescriptions became more convenient with e-prescribing, which rose from 38.6 percent in 2007 to 62.6 percent in 2011.

The number of emergency departments that were able to successfully meet meaningful use guidelines significantly increased along with the popularity of EHRs as well. The innovative systems also started to become even more advanced, and can now record patient history, alert physicians to warnings of negative drug interactions and keep track of problem lists for patients. Therefore, with so many hospitals and providers planning on adopting health IT to improve patient safety and care quality in 2015, the number of organizations that start to use EHRs is likely to climb even higher.