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1/3/2012
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5 Steps To Electronic Health Record Meaningful Use

HHS site offers small medical practices tips on selecting, implementing, and making the most of EHRs.

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Several branches of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have teamed up to produce an online guide for selecting and implementing electronic health records (EHRs). The goal is to help small physician practices earn Medicare and Medicaid bonus payments for Meaningful Use of EHRs, and ultimately deliver higher-quality care.

The "How To Get Started" guide, available at healthit.gov/providers-professionals/ehr-implementation-steps, walks providers through five steps of EHR implementation: assessing practice readiness; developing a strategy; choosing an appropriate system; training for, installing, and switching to the EHR; and achieving Meaningful Use.

It is not intended to be an EHR selection tool, which some medical specialty societies and health IT industry groups offer to their members, but rather more like a checklist. Accordingly, the site is not interactive, though it does link to outside resources that could help practices choose specific EHR products.

[ Take a look into our crystal ball and check out Top 10 Health IT Predictions For 2012. ]

The information is geared toward helping practices employ EHRs and other IT to improve healthcare, population health, and the efficiency of providing care, according to a spokesman for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), which is spearheading the project. Some of it is rather basic. "The first step in EHR implementation is to conduct an assessment of your current practice and its goals, needs, and financial and technical readiness. With an accurate view of your level of preparedness, your practice can design an implementation plan that meets the specific needs of your practice," reads the introduction to step 1.

Much of the content is based on real-world experience reported by the nationwide network of Regional Extension Centers, the spokesman said. The 62 ONC-funded centers are tasked with helping small physician practices and critical access hospitals adopt EHRs and achieve Meaningful Use, and various HHS agencies consulted with the RECs when developing the site.

The RECs are part of ONC's National Learning Consortium, which also includes federally funded health IT Beacon Communities and state-level health information exchanges.

Other content comes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which administers the Meaningful Use program, and from the HHS Office for Civil Rights, which enforces Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy and security standards.

The site actually went live last summer, though it might be hard to find. The tool has no catchy title, and it takes two clicks from the main HealthIT.gov page to get there. "We are promoting the site through various channels including active promotion through social media, such as regular blogging and Twitter," the ONC spokesman said via e-mail.

As healthcare providers of all shapes and sizes start implementing electronic medical records systems, security must be a top priority. Here's what you need to be thinking about to ensure your system is locked down. Download the report here (registration required).

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Lisa Henderson
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Lisa Henderson,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/5/2012 | 1:15:34 AM
re: 5 Steps To Electronic Health Record Meaningful Use
I like the grassroots approach they are taking, ie promoting on blogs and twitter ...as it's always interesting to see how helpful and useful websites and online tools take off that way. But in this instance, with the EHR pressures on physicians and group practices, it might be more helpful if the HHS put some funds towards education and tools rather than leaving it to chance.

Lisa Henderson, InformationWeek Healthcare, contributing editor
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