Have you ever searched for a blog about EMRs, HIEs, Meaningful Use Stages 1 and 2, or the ARRA/HITECH?
Okay, I’m sure you haven’t, but if you did, you would find a big fat nothing! At least nothing you would want to read. Why? Because this information is complicated and making sense of it is hard. Oh, you meant “why” would ya even want to search those things.
Let me tell you, you need to know about these things. At the very least you should have a high level understanding of the “what.” You should know that in Stage 1 of Meaningful Use your doctor or nurse should be using, in a “meaningful” way, an electronic medical record (EMR) to document your office visit. Yep. You should not see them charting your medical history in a paper chart. They need to be taking down your smoking status, documenting your allergies, ordering your prescriptions through e-prescribing, and doing all of this while confirming this information with you as they use the electronic documentation. If they aren’t, you should ask why there aren’t.
By Stage 2 (2014ish) they should also be hooked to a health information exchange (HIE) in order to be able to share your health information with other doctors you might see. That’s right. I’m asking you to get comfortable with the idea that your information is being shared. It already is when you move doctor to doctor, but now we are talking electronically. I know this sounds scary, and I know it can be intimidating, but do you also know that this will allow for better and safer patient care. Better and safer care for you. The patient. If you want to know some horrible stories about how an HIE might have saved someone’s life, I can tell ‘em. But for now, just know that it’s important that the day you are rolled into an ER when you had plans to be somewhere else, that the ER nurse can pull up your record and see that you are in fact allergic to med X if you can’t tell her yourself. Oh, and those expensive labs you have drawn at Clinic X and then two days later have them drawn at your specialist’s office, that won’t happen. They can both see the lab results from Clinic X and you don’t have to repeat them. Cool, huh?
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“The Stimulus Act” or ARRA) was put into effect in 2009. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health act (HITECH) is part of the Recovery Act. What this does is designate funding to modernize the health care system by promoting and expanding the adoption of health information technology (that stuff like EMRs and HIEs we talked about a second ago). HITECH supports the adoption of health information technology by hospitals and clinicians. Your hospitals and clinicians are incentivized through Medicare and Medicaid payments for using those EMRs meaningfully. Different incentive levels come through these Meaningful Use Stages.
Why am I telling you all of this? You asked. Remember? When you started searching things like EMRs, HIEs, and what they mean to you as a patient and active component in your own health.
Okay. I know you didn’t ask, but I wish you would. I think we will all need to take an active role in managing our health information and understand what is going on. It's exciting and it's new. But if you don't know what is going on and what it means for your health, it can be scary.
So ask all the questions you want to ask. Ask your doctor. Ask me. Ask your nurses. Ask your friends. And read. There's a lot of information out there, and it's all about you and your health. And if you think this post included a lot of acronyms, just be thankful I didn't get into the acronyms that really excite me. We will save PHR and ACO for another post.