Action on the HITECH Act – even EHR Consultants are weary of waiting!

I’m excited to say that we’ve just been selected as one of the first six Service Providers with a Regional Extension Center (REC), CalHIPSO, identifying our firm as expert EHR consultants, fully qualified to assist physicians and medical groups in EHR system selection and adoption.  Now what?

There are so many loose ends related to EHRs and the government’s plan to foster implementation and meaningful use, even EHR consultants are growing weary of waiting for action!

Here are just a few things promised by Uncle Sam, that are still lagging or in limbo:

  • Final Meaningful Use Criteria for Stage I, to apply to incentive payments in 2011 and 2012, are still pending.
  • There are now final criteria for organizations that are interested in becoming entities that certify EHR technology, but that means organizations must apply and demonstrate how they meet the criteria – and the ONC (Office of National Coordinator) must approve the organizations.  Only then can vendors submit their systems for certification.
  • How and when can providers apply for, and receive the incentive payments available (HITECH Act) for demonstrating meaningful use of certified EHR technology? Many providers will be able to demonstrate meaningful use beginning in January 2011 – but all these questions must be answered first.
  • Regional Extension Centers (RECs) have been awarded grants to assist Priority Primary Care Providers in selecting and implementing EHR technology and meeting meaningful use criteria – but most have not received any actual dollars as the ONC reviews and re-reviews their budgets.  While it is comforting that intensive review can reduce the “boondoggle factor” in this part of the program, it also means no providers are being helped yet.
  • Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) are supposed to make all this digital health information available to providers when it is needed, but no one knows how they will be funded for the long term, or even how providers will connect to them.  And one of the current draft meaningful use criteria objectives is to successfully send information to an HIE.
  • Finally, at least for this post, thousands of Health IT workers are needed to install and maintain all these new EHR systems, andcommunity colleges are the institutions identified to provide the education and training for these folks.  But they are just now being awarded grants to develop these training programs, so it will be months, if not years, before trained staff start to come into the workforce.

So if you are a medical provider scared off by all this uncertainty, what should you do?  Well, if nothing else, keep educating yourself.  You don’t have to become an expert on EHR systems, but you should begin to understand the basic due diligence in Evaluating and Selecting an EHR System.

When you need proven expertise and performance

Jim Hook, MPH

Mr. James D. Hook has over 30 years of healthcare executive management and consulting experience in medical groups, hospitals, IPA’s, MSO’s, and other healthcare organizations.

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2 thoughts on “Action on the HITECH Act – even EHR Consultants are weary of waiting!

  1. Great Post. Lot of useful information.Just wanted to flush out some more information.

    Today medical practitioners are looking to avail of this federal incentive by trying to comply with the definition of meaningful use but at the same time EHR providers are looking at their own set of profits.
    This misunderstanding is mostly I believe as a result of wrong interpretation of the federal guidelines. The EHR providers need to look at these guidelines from the prospective of the practitioners who deal with different specialties.
    Each specialty EHR has its own set of challenges or requirements which I believe is overlooked by in most EHR vendors in a effort to merely follows federal guidelines. This is resulting in low usability to the practitioners, thus less ROI, finally redundancy of the EHR solution in place.
    I think ROI is very important factor that should be duly considered when look achieve a ‘meaning use’ out of a EHR solution. Though one may get vendors providing ‘meaning use’ at a lower cost, their ROI / savings through the use of their EHR might be pretty low when compared to costlier initial investment. Found a pretty useful ROI tool that is pretty customizable and easy to use. It also accounts for the different specialty EHR’s too.
    There are other good references on the topics of:
    Usability/meaningful use
    Certification criteria for EHR

  2. Thanks for your comment, Vishal. After sitting through web demos of a dozen of the bigger names in EHR/PM software, we were struck by two things: 1) How similar they were in terms of capabilities, and 2) how much price variation there is for those similar capabilities, e.g., up to 50% lower in some cases.
    Most (serious) vendors must make their systems work in what is usually the most demanding environment: primary care. Most specialists will be able to use any of the systems from the larger vendors, although some vendors are not quite there yet in terms of supporting reports on in-house ancillary testing or procedures.

    Meaningful use factors into ROI based on the expectation that a user will be able to collect on the government incentives available for achieving meaningful use of certified EHR technology. I noticed the ROI tool you referenced does not include consideration of these potential payments, but these $ are going to be significant.