There is some interesting news this week on the effectiveness and adoption of electronic health records (EHRs). During the NACHC Policy and Issues Forum held last March in Washington, Mary K. Wakefield, the Administrator for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) lauded Community Health Centers for their increased adoption of EHRs saying, “…in 2010, less than two-thirds of health centers had achieved Electronic Health Records adoption. By 2011 – just a year later – this had increased to four-fifths of health centers. This is a very important accomplishment that strengthens the IT platform which health centers and health care systems need to operate.”
Health centers view health information technology (HIT) adoption–including EHRs–as essential to providing quality health care but resources can be a barrier to implementation. A study by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center released this week notes that safety-net providers find benefits in the workflow efficiency created by open-source EHRs. But the path to adoption can be difficult because of costs involved and the lack of health IT expertise. The study recommends more funding assistance for safety-net providers to implement EHRs.
The up front costs of implementing EHRs don’t necessarily mean it will drive up the cost of health care spending. For instance, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the Effect of Electronic Health Records on Health Care Costs: Longitudinal Comparative Evidence from Community Practices, assessed and compared data from three Massachusetts that adopted a community-wide ambulatory EHR to six communities that did not. The results indicated that in the communities that adopted EHRs the outpatient spending didn’t rise as quickly as it did those communities that did not adopt the EHR.
In other EHR news, last week an U. S.Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) press release announced four states on the Gulf Coast that are working to make sure patient health records are accessible and available after a hurricane or other natural disaster. The participating Gulf states will partner with six states in the East and Midwest and establish an interstate connection through a tool that allows for the secure health information exchange over the Internet.
Finally, in an NPR story National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Dr. Farzad Mostashari, talked about the government’s efforts to increase EHR adoption. “Paper works just fine if you want to deliver health care the way you sell shoes. If you want to wait in your office for the door to open and say jingle, jingle and you say can I help you and pull a chart and deliver care and then when you close that chart that information is dead. Paper works just fine. If you want to coordinate care with other providers, if you want to share information with a patient and engage them as partners in their care paper doesn’t work just fine,” He said.