Assessing the Growth of EHR Systems

Posted: Mar 03, 2016

Author, Cox Business

Healthcare IT News

The healthcare industry has undergone a systematic overhaul over the last few years in terms of how it handles data. Gone are the days of paper record keeping and unreliable patient charts. Taking their place are powerful Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems capable of storing millions of patient records accurately and across a wide range of time.

Since 2009, the government has been making big moves as part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act to emphasize the importance of EHR systems for healthcare providers. The act, which set aside $27 billion for the new systems and billions more to train and assist hospitals and healthcare workers on how to best implement and utilize them, provides a tremendous incentive to hospitals and doctors who adopt EHRs.

According to HITECH, a physician with at least 30 percent of its patients covered by Medicare is eligible for nearly $44,000 in incentives, while a physician with at least 30 percent of his or her patients covered by Medicaid is eligible for up to $63,750. The percentage of physicians participating in either the Medicare or Medicaid program has increased each year since it was launched, and it’s believed that up to 485,000 physicians could eventually participate in the program.

Furthermore, research shows that in 2013, nearly 80 percent of office-based physicians had adopted a basic EHR system, up from just 18 percent in 2006, while 48 percent had an EHR system with advanced capabilities, up from just 11 percent in 2006. Given the steady increase in participating physicians, as well as the numerous benefits that EHR systems possess over the paper based system that came before, it would be easy to overlook the growing concerns that many healthcare providers are starting to voice.

Despite the noble efforts of the HITECH Act, as well as the substantial capabilities of EHR technology, many healthcare providers today are struggling to ensure that they have the network infrastructure in place in order to adequately support the new government requirements. While it’s true that more physicians than ever before are entering notes into the system, accessing clinical data from different organizations, and receiving alters during an appointment, many are unhappy with the systems themselves, as well as the level of connectivity needed in order to support them.

For instance, according to research from CIO, nearly 40 percent of healthcare providers say they wouldn't recommend their EHR to a colleague and more than 30 percent say they are buying a new EHR system to replace existing software.

Furthermore, healthcare organizations are in need of reliable, secure network solutions, like virtual private networks such as Metro Ethernet, in order to support the foundational structure of their communications and collaboration strategy. This involves support for interoperability between hospitals, remote clinics, imaging centers, doctor’s offices and more—all under one seamless and secure network.

The benefits of EHR technology are unparalleled, essentially limitless, for the healthcare field; however, network connectivity will remain a crucial influencing factor for the success of these systems moving forward.




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