Physicians purchasing an ambulatory EHR system to automate their practice are doing so at a very exciting time. In early 2009, the federal government passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), ushering in an era of unprecedented government support for moving healthcare delivery to an electronic platform. Those who are purchasing an EHR today not only need to consider physician workflow and productivity, but also to be mindful of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) definition of “meaningful use.”
Although meaningful use is an evolving standard, once defined, it will be the minimum data set and functionality the government expects from an EHR. The definition of meaningful use will be meted out in three phases beginning in 2011. Through these evolving standards, the federal government has provided the present-day “carrot” and future “stick” for moving healthcare from paper-based to digital documentation. With the passage of this legislation, it is essential that hospitals, multi-specialty groups, and solo practitioners convert to EHRs.
Prior to ARRA, physicians considering an EHR for their practice only had to concern themselves with a simple test drive and evaluation prior to purchasing. Today, these same physicians also need to consider usability as well as sustainability over time and the ability of the EHR to meet CMS regulations. Physicians must look for a solution supplier that
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1. has the ability to keep up with evolving regulatory reporting requirements;
2. offers an application service provider (ASP) model that frees the provider to focus on clinical care, taking the burden of technology management off the physician’s shoulders;
3. allow for management at both a single-patient and population level; and
4. integrate and interoperate with other solutions. Physicians will also have two macro concerns as adoption of technology within the healthcare industry advances. First, physicians must partner with a supplier that is focused on innovation.
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Areas of focus should include supporting the evolution of the ambulatory physician workflow, usability, optimizing patient care, and physician efficiency. Information technology from these suppliers also should be able to facilitate the communication and engagement of the patient outside the traditional clinical care settings, and it should provide enhanced continuity and care coordination across the spectrum of healthcare venues.
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