Providers: Ensure your EHR system is ADA compliant

Many providers implementing electronic health record systems and other e-tools may find themselves discriminating against the disabled in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to a new American Medical News article.

Public facilities and private businesses of 15 employees or more must provide "reasonable accommodation" to disabled employees under the ADA, including any software or computer needs, according to amednews. However, many providers fail to include those accommodations--such as speech recognition, screen contrast and other technologies--with their EHRs, making it difficult, if not impossible, for such employees to access the EHR to perform their jobs.

Providers, the article recommends, should bring the topic of accessibility up with vendors and conduct a self-audit to determine if they're vulnerable to ADA challenges.

They also must ensure that disabled patients can access e-tools such as electronic sign-in kiosks and websites. A number of patients in recent years have sued providers who have failed to provide such electronic access, amednews reports.

The U.S. Department of Justice also is targeting providers who discriminate against the disabled through its "Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative", which launched in July 2012. The initiative aims to improve access to medical information and medical buildings. The DoJ already has entered into 10 settlement agreements with hospitals, doctors, dentists and other providers under the initiative.

To learn more:
- read the American Medical News article
- read about the Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative