A recently-developed technology called EHRs, or electronic health records, is beginning to change the way health professionals and caregivers store and share patient data.
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, is a strong proponent of this technology, and as such, they are offering financial incentives to doctors and hospitals who utilize the new method, and threatening to penalize those who don't.
They have established guidelines for three separate stages of a six-year implementation process, to ensure that caregivers are utilizing the technology effectively, and that widespread EHR use occurs in a timely fashion.
CMS has set a six-year goal for the establishment of what it calls "meaningful use" of EHRs - that is, for doctors and hospitals to not only use the technology, but use it effectively, and in the manner in which it was intended to be used.
Doctors and private practices have different goals than those set in place for hospitals; they have a smaller patient base and service volume, therefore they are expected to use the technology for a higher percentage of patients, and to record information more thoroughly.
2011 marks the beginning of stage one, which requires caregivers to begin using the technology to store health information for a high percentage of their patient base, and make it a common practice to share that information with other caregivers via the electronic system.
The second stage will launch in 2013, and asks medical professionals to add to what they began doing in the first stage.
Health practitioners will be required to use the data they started storing in stage 1 in a more structured format, and also to begin using it for diagnostic and treatment purposes.
Caregivers are also asked to begin recording more data in this stage, such as results from urinalysis, blood tests, radiology and other diagnostic exams.
Beginning in 2015, the third and most comprehensive stage requires health professionals to begin utilizing the EHRs, which should be in common usage at that point, to identify national trends, empower patients with self-management tools, and significantly increase the efficiency and accuracy of patient care.
To learn more about EHR and Health IT Meaningful Use Visit our website for further information OptimizeHIT