Mostashari: EHRs Will Help Most Patients By 2013

National Coordinator for Health Information Technology predicts majority of patients will get care via electronic health record systems next year, but says challenges still exist.
Health Data Security: Tips And Tools
Health Data Security: Tips And Tools
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Dr. Farzad Mostashari, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, predicts that by 2013 more than 50% of care will being conducted using EHRs.

In his keynote speech at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual conference in Las Vegas, Nev., last week, Mostashari chronicled the achievements of the last three years since the Obama administration signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which allotted billions of dollars to advancing the adoption of healthcare IT at hospitals and physician's offices.

"We've made more progress on adoption of electronic health records in the past two years than we have done as a nation in the past 20," Mostashari said. "By next year I predict that the majority of care delivered in this country in hospitals and doctors' offices will be done on electronic health records, not paper."

Mostashari also said that as we move to Meaningful Use Stage 2, EHRs will mature so that by 2014 every EHR will be able to send and receive documents and images securely, and every EHR will be able to use a single standard for receiving laboratory results for sending public health reports and care summaries to providers and to every patient.

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"Every EHR will be able to generate the data elements using the same codes for medications, laboratory results, procedures, problems lists, and immunizations. We are going to be moving ahead this year on establishing some of the rules of the road for trusted exchanges and how they keep and use data and how patient privacy and security is maintained," Mostashari said.

Highlighting some of the achievements that have occurred in recent years, Mostashari said, "In 2009, 40% of rural pharmacies could not accept an electronic prescription; that's now less than 10% thanks to Meaningful Use. Nearly 190,000 eligible professionals and over 3,200 eligible hospitals have registered for the health IT incentive program, and the pace of incentive payments is accelerating. More than 2,000 eligible hospitals and over 40,000 eligible providers have received payments totaling $3.1 billion $500 million in January alone. We are on track to exceed 100,000 providers a year, and I need your help to do it."

The national health IT coordinator told the audience that the goal of implementing health IT is to provide care that is safer, will improve the quality of care, creates greater efficiency, and is more coordinated and patient-centered. He also said technology can help lead the nation to a place where we can "prevent a million heart attacks and strokes in the next five years, where we can reduce hospital acquired conditions by 40% over the next three years, [and] reduce readmissions by 20% over the next three years."

However, there are challenges, not the least of which is that vendors are still learning not only how to meet the certification criteria, but actually how to make their products usable in the provider workforce. Additionally, Mostashari said we still don't have enough information on the magnitude and the root causes of health IT-associated adverse effects.

According to Mostashari, vendors and providers need a larger workforce, and the industry still does not have quality measures that are broad-based and that make use of the best of electronic health records.

Furthermore, the integration of patient-generated data into routine healthcare is still in its infancy and the industry still requires a lot of education and guidance around privacy and security. But while there are challenges ahead, Mostashari added, there are also opportunities to shift the course of healthcare onto a more sustainable path. "Change takes time, change takes innovation, it takes sustained will.... We are on the right track to make meaningful use of meaningful use."

Healthcare providers must collect all sorts of performance data to meet emerging standards. The new Pay For Performance issue of InformationWeek Healthcare delves into the huge task ahead. Also in this issue: Why personal health records have flopped. (Free registration required.)