The news coming out of Flint, Michigan, that the city's decision to switch to a cheaper water source caused a lead poisoning crisis, is tragic. But there appears to be a slight glimmer of good news, and it's coming from a rather stodgy, unlikely hero: the electronic health record of the local hospital.
Electronic health records can do many things. But they need a little help when it comes to fending off cybercrime.
The industry barely had time to decipher Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Acting Administrator's Andy Slavitt's pronouncement last week that 2016 likely marks the end of Meaningful Use before Slavitt and National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo clarified in a blog post January 19 that that's not really what he meant. Time to stop celebrating. Meaningful Use is still here, everyone.
It may sound like Slavitt and DeSalvo are backtracking, but they really aren't.
I've lamented before about the sometimes self serving, misleading or simply unhelpful studies that have been propagated about electronic health records. But these beauties keep on appearing. The latest one is from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), which released a survey this week about how EHRs are proving their worth.
Electronic health records faced many issues in 2015--interoperability, patient engagement, information blocking, health information exchanges, you name it.
To that end, in this commentary, I'll instead focus on reviewing two overarching themes that dominated much of 2015, and will continue to plague the industry as we head into 2016: the legal mess in which Meaningful Use is entangled and the physician dichotomy regarding EHRs.
When the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued the final rule for Stage 3 in October, it asked for more public comment to "facilitate additional feedback" about Stage 3 of the program, "in particular" to handle MACRA and MIPS. The proposed rule generated hundreds of comments, about 31 pages worth on www.regulations.gov. What's more, CMS has now received another whopping 18 pages of comments on the new rule.
That's a lot of new reading. But I'm not sure that the agency received what it was looking for.
Changes in an industry often advance faster than the law does. This is often the case in healthcare, where clinical, policy or other developments evolve and applicable law, either not yet enacted or now outdated, struggles to keep up. The result: confusion, inconsistency, mistakes and litigation. Just think of lack of regulation of EHR scribes or the Stark self-referral law. The laws are behind the times.
There's certainly been a lot of press on how electronic health records can negatively affect a physician's face time with patients, and that this is one of the reasons why doctors are dissatisfied with the systems.