Just 10 years ago, the United States government passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which requires health care providers to adopt and demonstrate “meaningful use” of electronic medical records (EMR) by Jan. 1, 2014 in order to continue receiving Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement. As a forcing function to move the healthcare industry fully into the digital age, it’s been a fairly successful measure. This same legislation went further to define EMRs—also called electronic health records (EHRs)—to include such things as patient demographics, vital signs, allergies, medical history, medication history, immunizations, radiology reports, and laboratory results.
An earlier government initiative, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), was intended to address the rights of patients to obtain copies of protected health information, and to require health care providers to guard patient information from unauthorized access. More recently, the US Department of Health & Human Services has implemented their Merit-based Incentive Payment (MIPS) system, which establishes a number of performance categories and reporting standards for Medicare patients.
It was also meant to cut down on fraudulent claims, requiring providers to increase their documentation. Insurance companies now require annotated progress of the patient, lab work, or some other measurable and objective outcome. Patients may see multiple providers for a variety of needs. Without visibility into a patient’s entire situation, the care given or medications prescribed by multiple practitioners could conflict and be potentially harmful to the patient. The ability to align medical records electronically ensures that a large majority, if not all, of a patient’s practitioners have access to that patient’s entire history, allowing coordination of care across the board.