TrendWatch: The Road to Meaningful Use: What it Takes to Implement Electronic Health Record Systems

Policymakers and health care providers increasingly recognize health information technology \(IT\) as a tool for providing efficient, high-quality care.

Today, hospitals and physicians use health IT to store health information electronically, facilitate clinical decision-making, streamline clinician workflows and monitor population health. Research suggests that these activities can facilitate more effective care and potentially lower long-term costs for the health care system.1

Electronic health record (EHR) systems, in particular, have been the focus of recent attention from policymakers. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) authorized incentive payments to eligible hospitals and physicians that are meaningful users of EHRs. As a result of the incentives and other funding opportunities, policymakers hope that the majority of hospitals and physicians will have adopted EHRs by 2015. Hospitals are eager to build EHR systems, recognizing them as an essential mechanism to improve patient care and achieve the quality and efficiency envisioned by all health care stakeholders. Implementing these systems, however, is a time- and resource-intensive process. Thus, the timelines established by the ARRA and the regulatory requirements proposed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) may prove challenging for hospitals seeking to obtain incentive payments, or even force rushed adoption and jeopardize successful implementation.

1 RAND. (2005). Health Information Technology: Can HIT Lower Costs and Improve Quality? Santa Monica, CA., and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. (2006). Costs and Benefits of Health Information Technology. Rockville, MD.

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