Electronic health records (EHR) have unilaterally transformed health care by improving all aspects of patient care, including safety, effectiveness, communication, education, timeliness, and productivity. Strange as it may be, however, the implementation of this technology was a nearly unheard of practice just ten short years ago. Though EHR systems have existed for nearly thirty years, it is estimated that as of 2006 less than 10% of all United States hospitals possessed these technologies.¹ Most hospitals and other healthcare facilities, either resistant to change or under financial restrictions, were unable to make the leap into the 21st century. Intuitive technology that actively protects a patient’s health was not being utilized, leaving doctors prone to the same errors that their predecessor made thirty years before.
Recognizing the importance of these applications in healthcare software, the US federal government, in an unprecedented program, became a catalyst for the deployment and improvement of EHRs. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) made billions of dollars in funding available to health care enterprises and eligible providers though a provision entitled the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH). With the enactment of this provision, the government delegated billions of dollars to be doled out as incentives for hospitals that invested in EHR technology. The government’s investment in the future of its public’s health was initiated by setting forth a group of evolving requirements for certified EHR software. These requirements were designed to roll out over a period of years, and divided into different groups of requirements, known as stages.
Stage 1 was the initial phase, and consisted of an attempt to improve overall quality, safety, and efficiency, reduce health disparities, engage patients and families in their health care, increase care coordination, and improve population and public health, while maintaining privacy and security of the individual. As a testament to the program’s success, The United States government disbursed nearly $20 billion in incentives to eligible healthcare providers in Stage One alone. In June of 2011, Meta Healthcare IT Solution’s full suite of EHR products received ONC-ATCB 2011/2012 Complete EHR Certification, enabling providers to meet the measures for Stage 1 Meaningful Use and apply for government funding.
Stage 2 is a much more rigorous and challenging set of requirements, both for software providers seeking certification, and health care providers looking to attest to their deployment. The new criteria will hold all healthcare IT providers to a higher standard, but, in our opinion, still only provide the foundation for what solid EHR software should contain. For Meta, Stage 2 certification laid out requirements that we wanted not only to fulfill, but surpass.
¹ Smaltz, Detlev and Eta Berner. The Executive’s Guide to Electronic Health Records. (2007, Health Administration Press) p.03