Hospitals Fall Short On Meaningful Use

While more hospitals say they meet stage 1 of the electronic health record incentive program, 53% say they still aren't ready, finds study.



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There's good news and bad news in the latest research from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). The good news is that from February to September 2011 there has been a 16% increase (from 25% to 41%) in the number of eligible hospitals saying that they are likely to meet criteria for stage 1 of Meaningful Use. The bad news is that 53% of hospitals say they cannot meet 10 or more of the 14 core requirements set out in stage 1.

The survey, Summary of Meaningful Use Readiness, reflects that hospitals increasingly recognize the need to adopt health IT, but also face many challenges as they attempt to transition from paper-based medical charts to digitized medical records.

"This is a big mountain ... there are more hospitals getting up the mountain today than there were last winter, so that is the success," John Hoyt, HIMSS executive VP of organizational services, told InformationWeek Healthcare. "[However] the issue still remains: who has not started up the mountain yet? Is there some common attribute among them? The answer is small, rural, and critical access hospitals."

[For background on e-prescribing tools, see 6 E-Prescribing Vendors To Watch.]

According to Hoyt, one of the reasons these hospitals have a lower IT adoption rate is that they have limited access to capital, which the Medicare and Medicaid electronic health record (EHR) incentive programs do not address.

"The incentive programs are not cash to go purchasing, it's cash to get reimbursed once you purchase. You can't purchase if you don't have a line of credit or cash," Hoyt said.

Hoyt hopes that the Department of Health and Human Services' allocation of $12 million into rural health IT, announced in September, will help.

Further breakdown of the numbers showed that 10% of hospitals are now ready to achieve stage 1 of Meaningful Use, meeting all 14 core and five of the 10 menu items, as required. Hospitals that had the greatest likelihood to meet the first phase of Meaningful Use criteria tended to be academic medical centers. In addition, 31% of hospitals have the capability to meet 10 or more of the process core measures and at least five of the menu items. However, 6% of hospitals did not report that they have the capability to meet any core or menu measures.

Core requirements include keeping updated patient medication lists, implementing computerized provider order entry (CPOE) systems for medication orders, and recording demographic information such as race, gender, and ethnicity. Hospitals are also required to securely protect patient information stored in electronic health records (EHRs).

HIMSS research showed that almost half of all responding hospitals performed a security risk analysis as part of their risk management process. Conducting a security risk analysis is one of several requirements hospitals must meet to demonstrate the protection of patient health information and achieve Meaningful Use.

The report is the first in a quarterly series that will evaluate the readiness of U.S. hospitals to qualify for EHR incentive payments; the next will be released in December.

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