Incentives help boost hospitals' EHR sophistication

Fueled by federal incentives, U.S. hospitals are growing more sophisticated in their use of electronic health record technology, according to HIMSS Analytics, the market-analysis arm of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.

Its report looks at five quarters, beginning with the third quarter of 2011--when the first incentive payments from the Medicare and Medicaid Incentive Programs were paid out--through the third quarter of 2012.

During that period, the number of hospitals reaching Stage 5 or Stage 6 on its Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model scale increased by more than 80 percent, and by 63 percent for those reaching Stage 7. Meanwhile, the number of hospitals in Stages 1, 2 and 3 have each declined by more than 10 percent over that same time span. Fourth-quarter 2012 results are due out later this month. Currently, 104 hospitals (1.8 percent of the U.S. total) have earned Stage 7 status, while 430 hospitals (7.3 percent) have earned Stage 6 status.

"This data suggests that the HITECH portion of the 2009 stimulus law is achieving its intended result of encouraging increased implementation and meaningful use of electronic health records among hospitals," John Hoyt, executive vice president of HIMSS Analytics, said in a statement.

By contrast, few hospitals in Canada, which does not have a similar incentive program, moved up the scale.

Meanwhile, on HIMSS Analytics' Ambulatory EMR Adoption Model scale, 53.7 percent of providers remain using paper records, with 30.5 percent at Stage 2. There are no providers at Stage 7, and just 0.81 percent at Stage 6.

Hospitals at Stage 6 or Stage 7 previously surveyed by HIMSS and The Advisory Board reported substantial benefits. Nearly 80 percent reported multiple core measures and/or safety benefits, such as reduction of adverse drug events (73 percent) and quality measures improvement in venous thromboembolism (73 percent) or stroke (70 percent).

National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari told a Congressional hearing in November that while the Meaningful Use regulations were meant to be challenging, substantial progress has been made, especially in providing the level of interoperability required for health IT to be truly effective.

A summit on medical device interoperability conducted by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration focused on patient safety, calling for better standards on interoperability and the use of systems engineering to better understand all the interdependencies at work.

To learn more:
- read the report
- learn about the EMRAM scale