Healthcare News & Insights

Survey: Docs use EHRs, but struggle to meet meaningful use requirements

While a large percentage of healthcare providers have switched to electronic health records (EHRs), a lot of them are still struggling to keep up with the meaningful use requirements necessary to receive federal EHR incentive payments. 

DoctorComputerAs of early last year, less than 10% of doctors were meeting meaningful use standards, according to a study published recently in the Annals of Internal Medicine. That was despite the fact that a much greater number (43% of the 1,820 doctors surveyed) had an EHR system in place.

And those requirements are only getting more complex. While the Stage 1 rules focused on basic functions of an EHR system, the Stage 2 requirements going into effect next year and the Stage 3 rules currently being developed are aimed more at sharing information and coordinating care among providers.

While more recent data shows that a greater number of providers have adopted EHRs, organizations still face a number of challenges meeting the requirements of the EHR incentive program. Among the 140 hospital administrators polled last December by the PMG Healthcare & Life Sciences Institute , only 36% said they’re fully confident about their organization’s readiness to meet the requirements for Meaningful Use Stage 2.

Why the discrepancy between EHR adoption and qualification for incentive payments? The top reasons organizations fell short of meeting the requirements, according to the report in the Annals of Internal Medicine:

  • 42% couldn’t exchange digital patient data with physicians outside their practice
  • 41% were unable to generate quality metrics, and
  • 36% couldn’t give patients post-visit summaries.

Be careful when choosing EHR vendors

In other words, the doctors blamed the lack of qualification on the fact that the EHR systems they were using made it difficult or impossible to meet the requirements, researchers said. Survey respondents also reported being dissatisfied with their systems’ functionality and ease of use, similar to the findings of other recent surveys.

What it means for hospitals and other healthcare providers: When looking for an EHR system with the goal of qualifying for incentives, it’s important to get detailed information about how potential systems will meet all of the necessary requirements.

As the experience of the doctors studied shows, even if a system is technically able to perform those functions, in practice those parts of the system may not work so well.

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