- April 8, 2014
New Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rules for health-care providers are upping the game when it comes to electronic medical records.
It’s no longer enough just to secure a patient’s electronic medical history practice-wide. As of January 1, 2014, Washington has been requiring healthcare professionals to demonstrate “Meaningful Use” of electronic health and medical records.
The Meaningful Use provision in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 means that medical and health records need to do a lot more than just be digital. They must also contribute to reducing health disparities. Engage patients and family in data gathering while giving them a better understanding of their health records. And improve public health overall, among other things.
What’s more, non-compliers will be whacked with a 1% reduction in Medicare re-imbursements starting in 2015. So there’s good reason to tow the line.
To work toward that Meaningful Use standard, ideally, electronic health record documents need to able to be distributed externally in a secure manner. Submissions need to be made to public health informatics specialists, the professionals who study merged health data. Data needs to be collected from patients and families in easy-to-use e-forms. Plus everything needs to be archived, as before, in a secure environment.
For many healthcare organizations, this means adopting some kind of electronic healthcare records (EHR) system if you haven’t already done so. Paper isn’t cutting it anymore.
What to look for in an EHR System to comply with Meaningful Use
The National Center for Health Statistics suggests that basic EHR systems include the following functionalities:
• Patient history and demographics
• Patient problem lists
• Physician clinical notes
• Comprehensive list of patient medications and allergies
• Computerized orders for prescriptions
• Ability to view laboratory and imaging results electronically
Of course, elaborate EHRs are available, but if you’re a smaller practice looking to comply and want to start more modestly, the good news is, you and your existing staff can easily implement many of these elements using PDF software.
This includes a core requirement: “Provide patients with an electronic copy of their health information (including diagnostic test results, problem list, medication lists, medication allergies), upon request.” You could securely e-mail the results with PDF Protect and password encryption. You can even share audio and video, like a -scopy.
How PDF software can provide a basic EHR and help with Meaningful Use
Already widely adopted in business, secure PDF can be the obvious choice of format for a basic EHR system, and PDF software, such as Foxit PhantomPDF, along with free e-readers, like Foxit PDF Reader, are go-to tools for PDF creation, organization, and distribution.
You can use PDF software to easily create and edit PDF forms for collecting patient data. Use PDF OCR for scanning and archiving existing paper documents. Employ PDF annotation for making notes on laboratory and imaging results, and for making notes. And the whole package can be wrapped up with PDF security and organization. You can even import XML health records from larger hospitals into PDF.
How is Meaningful Use adoption going so far?
One of the principal requirements of Meaningful Use is improvement in patient communications—including recording health information, and medication management and safety—and this is where we saw the highest Meaningful Use adoption last year, according to studies currently being conducted.
In 2013, about three-quarters or more of physicians had computerized these basic EHR functions, according to a National Center for Health Statistics survey.
For the 25% who haven’t adopted any form of basic EHR yet, PDF software may be among the easiest and cheapest way to get started to avoid that 1% penalty.