IOM makes new suggestion for stage 3 MU

As stage 3 meaningful use standards are in the process of being created, numerous health care organizations have submitted suggestions to the federal government.

The most recent recommendation came from a committee from the Institute of Medicine. It urged the government to include behavioral health data and patient socioeconomic status in the new regulations. The report was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

IOM suggests socioeconomic survey for stage 3 MU
The IOM committee's suggestion focuses primarily on the inclusion of various social determinants into electronic health records. The updated system would incorporate 12 questions for patients regarding information about their behavioral health and socioeconomic status. 

The suggestions released by the IOM are based on another report from November 2014 that was focused on identifying behavioral and social domains that can be linked directly to health outcomes. The panel that led the research wanted to analyze the most effective ways to use this data in EHR systems to benefit the health care industry. 

The goal of the most recent recommendation is to provide accountable care that is patient-centered while reducing costs within the health care industry. A total of eight of these questions are original, while the other four are being evaluated within the industry. 

The incorporation of such data would assist providers in determining risk factors more efficiently with a firmer grasp on the patient's social background. This ultimately has the potential to lead to enhanced treatments and diagnoses by improving physicians' decision-making. 

Doctors would have the ability to refer their patients to public health departments or organizations within their communities when problems, like domestic abuse, occur. The addition of the questionnaire to EHR systems would greatly assist population health management strategies by increasing the essential patient information that is available to physicians.

The key to more informed medical decision-making
The American Medical Informatics Association has reported some criticism regarding the IOM's new recommendation. The AMIA believes that incorporating the questionnaire will result in workflow problems within practices and put patient privacy at risk. Aside from the potential negative impacts, many experts doubt that patients would even respond to the questions honestly. 

However, the authors of the IOM's report believe otherwise, stating that having the patient's employment status, socioeconomic information, past and current doctors and personal relationships would allow doctors to know more about their patients to make medical decisions that are not only better informed, but more realistic. 

"Any new diagnostic technology or mode of therapy creates added demands and necessitates changes in practice," William Stead, from Vanderbilt University, and Nancy Adler, from the University of California, San Francisco, wrote in the report. "We believe that the benefits of adopting and using the measurement panel will outweigh these costs."

According to EHR Intelligence, although there are advantages to the questionnaire, providers will have to take patient privacy and safety into account when using it in their practices. However, if there are any alterations to workflow, they would be insignificant. 

The IOM's report is aiming to increase the number of organizations that would consider implementing the socioeconomic and behavioral health survey into their practices. The committee is currently working on convincing the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to become involved in the incorporation of the questionnaire in the new stage 3 meaningful use standards set for implementation in the near future. 

The committee also suggested that in order for practices to qualify for stage 3 meaningful use regulations, they should have the behavioral health and socioeconomic data readily available in their EHR systems. Although many experts feel that the survey would be an effective addition to stage 3 meaningful use, it is still unclear as to whether the federal government will end up including the questionnaire in the new MU standards.