2013 will be a year of change for EHR industry

Well, 2012 certainly was a banner year for electronic health records systems, with ever-increasing provider adoption and the release of the final regulations for Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use incentive program.

What will  the coming year bring? Some developments are a given. We all know that EHR adoption will continue to accelerate as we get closer to the penalty phase of the incentive program. More providers will access EHRs via their smrtphones and iPads. EHR vendors will consolidate. And cloud computing will be more prevalent. 

But here are a few 2013 predictions that may be a little less obvious:

Increased health records litigation 

As the industry matures and more providers implement EHR systems, dissatisfied users unhappy about poor usability, inadequate vendor support and patient safety/malpractice concerns arising from software glitches will start taking their complaints to court, even if their vendor contracts contain provisions absolving the vendor from liability. The providers are going to use the lawsuits to fight those types of clauses and test their enforceability. It will be interesting to see the fallout on this.

There will also be more lawsuits by vendors against their competitors and those they believe have done them wrong. We're already seeing this unfold, with Allscripts suing Epic and New York City's public hospital system after the system awarded an EHR contract to its rival  and health IT provider HealthTrio suing Aetna for patent infringement related to Health Trio's EHR and patient portals software.

At least one big provider will be dinged for fraudulent billing related to EHR use. This provider--probably an acute care hospital or nonprofit health system--will go down in the history books as the first in what will eventually be a chain of government investigations and settlements to ferret out EHR billing problems. HHS,  CMS, OIG and ONC have said clearly billing fraud from EHR use won't be tolerated--in fact, they've talked about it so much that the government agencies will have to make a move on this in 2013.

More Meaningful Use scrutiny

The government will be held more accountable for the Meaningful Use incentive program and will take action to justify itself. It's not that ONC and CMS have been freewheeling in their handouts of incentive dollars. But since OIG chastised CMS for lax oversight of attesters and Congress has questioned the effectiveness of the Meaningful Use program in recent months, HHS will need to take action in 2013 in response to these concerns. The agency may increase post-payment auditing of successful attesters, meet with skeptical senators and issue additional reports touting the program.

Better informed patients

Consumers, who have not really been part of the discussion of EHRs despite their central role as beneficiaries of the technology, will become a more important part of the equation in 2013.  Providers will be reaching out to patients to encourage them to access their electronic records and communicate electronically--and patients will take providers up on this. More patients will be engaged in their healthcare data and, because of EHRs, take a more active role in their own care. - Marla (@FierceHealthIT)