Electronic health records have the potential to help providers in different settings better communicate about patients, but they won't improve patient care in a vacuum, warns the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) in its latest report to Congress.
"[A] better information system by itself is unlikely to improve care unless the systems are interoperable, the providers involved establish protocols for how they will communicate key information to each other, and processes are in place to augment the information provided in the electronic medical record so that all pertinent information can be shared across providers," the report says.
MedPAC suggests that process changes to "easily" communicate medical information electronically could include emphasizing team-based care, which would improve coordination, and establishing a beneficiary-owned medical record which the patient would bring to all appointments, and into which the provider would enter pertinent medical information.
MedPAC, the independent agency created to advise Congress on issues affecting Medicare, has long been a proponent of EHR adoption to improve care delivery and keeps a close eye on EHR developments, a fact the Commission pointed out not only in its presentation April 5 but also in its last report to Congress, submitted March 15.
The Commission also expressed interest in monitoring the EHR program to see if EHRs were creating efficiencies and cost savings in its meeting this past April.
The Commission reports to Congress in March and June of each year. The June report focuses particular attention on Medicare beneficiaries, including coordination of care and benefit design, according to MedPAC's fact sheet.