Over the past few years, there has been a push to implement electronic health records (EHRs) in hospitals and physician offices. Healthcare providers have long struggled with utilizing the Meaningful Use (MU) program, claiming too much time is spent checking off boxes than focusing on improving patient care. An additional unintended consequence was the costly and difficult to use EHR software. Those critical of MU believe it has room for improvement; therefore, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have attempted to secure the future of EHRs by implementing improvements to the program to allow EHRs to flourish.
User-Friendly EHR Interface
In March 2016, the Consumer Health Data Aggregator Challenge and the Provider User Provider Experience Challenge was held at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual conference in Orlando, Florida. The challenge was to develop a user-friendly interface allowing providers and patients to easily access their health records electronically.
Karen DeSalvo, the national coordinator for health information technology launched the challenge, “This strategy will help us reach the consumer and provider-friendly future of health IT we all seek,” DeSalvo said. “It reflects our guiding principles that consumers and providers should have easy, secure access to health information and the ability to direct that information when and where it is needed most.”
The winners of the challenge were to receive $36 million in funding to develop 50 Health Center Controlled Networks (HCCNs) from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information (ONC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which are aimed at redesigning healthcare organizations in an attempt to incorporate services, improve patient outcomes, and negotiate managed care agreements.
Improved Patient Experience
Through the development of optimized, streamlined EHRs and digital tools, physicians and patients are more likely to feel more comfortable embracing the technology. Steps continue to be made to improve patient care, including the following:
- Improved quality, safety, efficiency, and reducing health disparities
- Better healthcare experience for patients
- More engagement by patients in their care
- Improving care coordination
- Improving overall public health
- Ensuring adequate privacy and security protections for personal health details
- Adequate training to ensure successful implementation
Other steps have been taken to change the way providers are reimbursed under the new Medicare Shared Savings Program with the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). Instead of fee-for-service physicians will be rewarded through a value-based payment system. Medical practices will be rewarded for coordinated with each other instead of competing with one another.
MACRA key points
- Rewards providers for patient outcomes achieved through EHRs
- Gives healthcare organizations flexibility for customized EHRs and digital tools
- Promotes innovation by improving usability by providers and patients
- Improves interoperability by overcoming healthcare technology usability challenges by focusing on real-world uses of technology