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EHR Technology’s Impact Limited by ‘Watered Down’ Federal Standards

A push toward greater interoperability should significantly increase the value of electronic health records, according to a report.

By Bisk
EHR Technology’s Impact Limited by ‘Watered Down’ Federal Standards

Federal Meaningful Use requirements generated growth in the electronic health record market but the U.S. still lags behind other countries when it comes to the adoption of health technology, according to a report.

The RAND report suggests that the government’s Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act encouraged the implementation of existing technologies instead of promoting the development of improved systems better equipped to meet future demands.

The push for implementation over innovation has stunted the technology’s potential “by limitations in its design, uptake and use,” the report stated.

The HITECH Act incentive payments hastened EHR adoption, but practitioners and medical facilities had to move too quickly to qualify for incentive payments, which led to adoption of systems not ideal for their needs, the report said.

“The health IT systems that currently dominate the market are not designed to talk to each other. This problem might have been avoided if the federal government had pressed the issue when Meaningful Use standards were being drafted. Instead, interoperability standards were watered down, and vendors were allowed to apply for meaningful use certification post-market,” the researchers wrote.

Overcoming the Obstacles

Between 2007 and 2012, the EHR market doubled from $9.5 billion to $20.7 billion in annual activity, but despite the profusion of options providers found themselves with, EHR adoption continues to lag behind other high-income countries, hindered by factors such as a fragmented marketplace, changing federal incentives uncertainty about the regulatory landscape and “the striking lack of interoperability between systems,” according to the report.

Government subsidization of the existing EHR industry rather than funding innovation led to hospitals and healthcare providers purchasing EHRs that do not have the connectivity envisioned by the authors of the HITECH Act, which has blunted to the projected benefits of EHRs, the report found.

To date, the federal government has invested more than $14 billion to improve efficiency and clinical outcomes, according to the report.

Moving forward, if the Affordable Carew Act’s EHR provisions are not lessened or deferred, a push toward better interoperability should “substantially” increase the value of EHRs to providers and patients, the report said.

Category: Healthcare