Frequently Asked Questions about EHR

With all the press EHR has been getting lately, you’re probably overloaded with questions about this new technology.

For instance, what is EHR? Is it worth the high cost and trouble? Is it really going to transform patient care?

If these questions have been in the back of your mind, don’t worry. Here are some of the most common questions I’ve been asked about EHR.

1.      What is EHR?

EHR stands for “Electronic Health Record”. This technology is at the heart of the government’s plan to streamline the health and medical industry.

EHR essentially means that all patient data is no longer stored on paper. It is stored in a large server or database that can be shared with other authorized healthcare professionals very quickly. This gives hospitals and clinics around the world the ability to access a patient’s medical records in seconds.

2.      What are the benefits of EHR?

There are many benefits to installing an EHR system.

First, EHR dramatically increases clinic productivity. Because files can be pulled up in seconds, more patients can be seen during the day; some doctors with EHR systems report being able to see up to four additional patients per day.

EHR also lowers the number of staff a hospital or clinic needs to run efficiently. Lost files are a thing of the past with EHR systems. And, playing “catch-up” with paperwork at the end of the day is a thing of the past as well!

Once a clinic makes the transition to EHR, they have much more space. Storing all those medical files is unnecessary.

EHR improves patient care. Errors, such as misread files or transcription errors, don’t occur. Because EHR records are clear, clinics experience very few pharmacy and patient call backs.

Clinics who’ve installed EHR system also report higher staff morale. The reason is because the tedious chore of chasing charts, updating records and filing are no longer necessary.

3.      Why is the government pushing for EHR?

The reason why the federal government is pushing so hard for EHR implementation is closely tied to its benefits. But EHR is an integral part of the President’s goal of health care reform because the technology has the potential to save clinics and hospitals so much money over the long term.

Right now, physicians and hospitals are eligible to receive significant financial reimbursement once they’ve installed a qualifying EHR system.

For instance, physicians who demonstrate “meaningful use” of an EHR system could be reimbursed $44,000 to $64,000. Hospitals installing EHR could be reimbursed millions.

Starting in 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicade Services (CMS) will begin penalizing providers who haven’t yet installed an EHR system, or those who aren’t demonstrating meaningful use.

4.      What’s “meaningful use”?

According to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and as detailed on CMS.gov, “meaningful use” is defined as:

  • The use of a certified EHR in a meaningful manner, such as e-prescribing.
  • The use of certified EHR technology for electronic exchange of health information to improve quality of health care.
  • The use of certified EHR technology to submit clinical quality and other measures.

Put simply, providers and hospitals have to show that they’re using EHR technology in a way that can be measured, and is showing visible benefits.

5.      Does meaningful use alone qualify me for incentive payments?

No. You must be able to show meaningful use to avoid penalization by 2015. If you want to qualify for government incentives, then you must meet a set number of criteria. The number of criteria is different depending on whether you’re part of a clinic, or a large hospital.

For instance, clinical professionals must meet 20 out of 25 meaningful use objectives. 15 of these core objectives are set in stone. The other 5 can be chosen by the physicians and staff.

For hospitals, there are 24 meaningful use objectives, and 19 must be met to receive incentive payments. There are 14 core objectives that must be met, and the last 5 are flexible.

6.      How does HIPAA affect EHR?

Staying compliant with HIPAA means that your clinic has to maintain tight control over patient records. This is why it’s important to choose an EHR system that is 100% HIPAA compliant.

HIPAA compliant systems ensure that data stays secure and can only be accessed by those with proper authorization. A quality EHR system will also log every access to a patient’s files.

7.      What is PQRI/PQRS?

PQRI is the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative, which is now known as the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS).

The 2006 Tax Relief and Health Care Act (TRHCA) authorized the CMS to create a physician quality reporting system, which eventually became PQRS.

The purpose of PQRS is to give incentives to physicians who satisfactorily report data on quality measures for the covered professional services to Medicare beneficiaries.  Successful reporting can earn physicians equal to 2% of their total estimated Medicare Part B Physician Fee Schedule allowed charges.

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